Can this photo of a man and his 23-month-old daughter floating dead in the Rio Grande change the immigration debate?

A photo showing a 25-year-old Salvadoran father and his 23-month-old daughter lying dead, face down in muddy water along the banks of the Rio Grande has revived concern about the dangers migrants face.

Return To Article

Commenting has temporarily been suspended in preparation for our new website launch, which is planned for the week of August 12th. When the new site goes live, we will also launch our new commenting platform. Thank you for your patience while we make these changes.

  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    July 2, 2019 11:53 a.m.

    The world reacts in horror. While so many posters on this thread look to deflect blame elsewhere--anywhere--somewhere that they can squirrel it away and not have to face what they know deep down--is true.

    When the ashes filled the skies around Auschwitz and Dachau---there were those who probably blamed the outsiders for polluting the air of their lovely little town.

  • quackquack Park City, UT
    July 1, 2019 8:25 a.m.

    How they dont show photos of kids drinking toxic water in Flint, MI ?
    How come they dont show photos of Mass murders in Chicago, IL
    How come they show opioid overdoses from across the country

    We as a nation need to fix ourselves before we can assist others if we keep taking in the worlds problems we are setting ourselves up for failure.

  • Cougar_Trojan_Spurs_Fan San Diego, CA
    June 30, 2019 11:21 a.m.

    @Astoria Jim - Mamaroneck, NY
    June 26, 2019 11:01 p.m.

    You wrote:
    “To use Mr Frum's theory, all of the persecuted Jews should have been admitted to America. But none of the merely poor Italians.”

    Is that the best you could come up with? Being from New York, I would think you’d have a better perspective of the immigration situation, given that Ellis Island is right in your backyard. Regardless of whether or not they were “poor Italians” or “persecuted Jews,” I’d be willing to bet that they all came through Ellis Island, which, at the time, was the *legal* form of entry into the USA. Whether escaping poverty or persecution, they all emigrated to the states legally. I don’t know of a single conservative who is against *immigration*, it is the *illegal* aspect that we oppose.

  • NeilT Harrisville, UT
    June 28, 2019 9:29 p.m.

    To every one who says just come legally I say how do they accomplish that. Legal immigration is costly and bureaucratic. It's like telling homeless person to go a bank and take out a mortgage to purchase a home.

  • Misty Mountain Kent, WA
    June 28, 2019 10:25 a.m.

    The world reacts with sadness.

    A subgroup of DN readers sniffs and says stuff like,

    "It's the father's fault."

    "They should have gotten in line and come in legally."

    "It's the Democrats' fault. "

    "These people are not refugees"

  • bigfred San Angelo, TX
    June 28, 2019 10:19 a.m.

    After serving 3 tours in Vietnam, I reflected on the carnage caused by the dictatorial and communist cotrolled governments on the populace. May I suggest to many of you that believe this is all Trumps' doing, to garner a bit of research. The majority of the citizenry stayed and fought the aggressors. Now retired after having been in law enforcement for 36 years near the US-Mexico border, I have seen literally thousands of people arrested for human trafficking, smuggling cocaine and heroin, weapons and cash violations. These "cages" were not Trump's making, but under Obama - LOOK IT UP!! The liberal media lies, it is what they are best at. I have 2 sons that work for Border Patrol. One is south of Tucson. He states that several thousand illegals are processed each month and returned. Some are here for their 3rd or more offense. But they have also recovered millions in cash headed south, along with weapons. The media will not report this, as it goes against their narrative. My other son works the river boats, a very dangerous job as they are fired upon regularly. Media will not report this either.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    June 27, 2019 3:46 p.m.

    Re: "First off, this is not the fault of the United States."

    Not true. This IS the fault of the United States -- and her leftist politicians.

    Their cruel actions and inaction -- entirely predictably -- created the tacit, but powerful invitation for this young father to risk his life and that of his daughter. They were clearly seeking to take advantage of a cynical cheat of our immigration system that liberals created, liberals preserved, liberals enabled, and liberals even sold, door-to-door, village-to-village, to desperate people in the Third World.

    All to no better purpose than to cold-bloodedly exploit this young family as pawns in their heartless scam to illegitimately increase their political power.


  • n8ive american Shelley, Idaho
    June 27, 2019 11:50 a.m.

    Ask yourself this: Who caused them to cross illegally? Who entices illegal crossing? Why did they not seek asylum the correct way through proper channels? Who would drag their child thousands of miles across the most inhospitable terrain bypassing other safe destinations?

    The fault lies directly on the father as others have noted.

    @Donald Johnson - Northern, MI
    June 26, 2019 2:49 p.m.
    "I don't know if it will affect the overall immigration debate much, but it did affect my feelings. In the New Testament, Jesus said, "When I was a stranger, you took me in.... When you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." I am heartbroken by the deaths of the child and father trying to seek a better life for his family, even if illegally. As for me, I would prefer that we, my country, treat illegal aliens with kindness and respect and a concern for their safety, whether or not the immigrants are allowed to stay or are returned to their country."

    Your comment then would condone theft, such as robbing a bank, is ok as long as you were seeking a better life for your children. Even Christ said to obey the laws of the land.

  • Jayson Meline Chubbuck, ID
    June 27, 2019 10:45 a.m.

    The tragic image catching attention is really a microcosm of what happens daily in the southwest deserts; and what has been occurring on the Rio Grande for well over 50 years. I have seen it not just in photos, but firsthand.

    What astounds me is the love for bureaucracy and political mechanics vs. taking immediate action to provide for basic human needs.

    Several non-profit and faith based organizations are ready to render assistance. Many have offered services and material assistance, and are rebuffed because of legalities. Government needs to get out of the way, and let these organizations help their fellow man.

    At the same time, we need to re-prioritize our foreign policy that ignores, neglects, and fails to understand how to provide assistance with accountability to our immediate neighbors with mutual respect for sovereignty and self-determination in applying common values.

    For a fraction of what we have spent in the Middle East with governments who will never share our values or desire peace, we could provide more effective assistance to our real neighbors.

    We also need to have a business community quit disobeying the law and incentive for illegal immigration.

  • Culture Warrior Salt Lake City, UT
    June 27, 2019 9:32 a.m.

    I know it's often controversial to publish shocking and heartbreaking photos such as these. I give props to the Deseret News for being courageous without being sensational, here.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 27, 2019 9:29 a.m.

    Failure to secure our borders is the same as a homeowner with a swimming pool and not having a fence around their property. There is something potentially attractive to people who have no right being on the property, but the property owner was negligent by not erecting a barrier to keep strangers away.

    Same applies to these two people dying on their way to an attractive nuisance- a thriving U.S. economy.

    Build the wall and stop illegal entry, by force if necessary, for the safety of those wanting to cross illegally.

    Two dead right at the border is no worse than two dead in the middle of Mexico on the way, or two dead in the Arizona desert after crossing illegally. Every single one is 100% preventable if people obey our laws. But, that requires us to enforce our laws, not to abandon the rule of law.

    Build the wall, now! It will save lives.

  • SME Bountiful, UT
    June 27, 2019 6:46 a.m.

    Re: Alex T - please don't compare the horrors of Auschwitz to difficult conditions in an immigration center. Become familiar with what happened in NAZI concentration camps before you make such a comparison.

  • Mainly Me Werribee, 00
    June 27, 2019 4:17 a.m.

    First off, this is not the fault of the United States. This is horribly tragic and I feel for the family. However, the blame for these deaths lies with those who have illegally invited them here through their action or inaction. Maybe a law needs to be on the books that provide criminal penalties and jail time for anyone who encourages people to illegally enter the country. This should apply to the media and any politician who encourage people to break the law of our country.

  • Joe Leaphorn Scottsdale, AZ
    June 27, 2019 12:39 a.m.

    RichardB - Murray, UT
    June 26, 2019 2:02 p.m.

    "100% the parents fault. If they came for asylum, they would not be crossing the river, but come across a bridge in a legal port of entry."

    It doesn't matter how an asylum seeker enters the country. The laws apply equally for those coming through clogged ports of entry and/or across the desert and river. The tragedy is that the Trump administration is making desperate people more desperate. This has been well documented with all news sources except Fox News and wingnut media who want to blame these refugees.

    Those seeking asylum are required to meet certain qualification. An individual from Mexico (I.e. a citizen from Mexico) doesn't qualify. People from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras do qualify (just as people from Cuba) regardless of how they come. You need to understand the law and how it applies in these cases, otherwise you will only be repeating false information which confuses and distracts.

    The House is trying to address this crisis by applying strict conditions that put the aid where it is needed including more immigration judges to handle the work load. Making conditions worse for refugees only harms this nation.

  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    June 27, 2019 12:19 a.m.

    The New York Times article citing Mormon leaders in Utah asking for Donald Trump to step aside said it all today. But there is a deeper problem and it involves all of us--or at least too many of us.
    When people can look at this picture and come up with responses like, "What an uncaring father! If he cared as much about children as I do, he never would have put her in harms way..." in order to justify the most pressing Trump insanity--in order to convince us and themselves that they are truly the ones who care most about children---their world has turned upside down, alternative facts are cemented in their minds and there might be no righting our nation again. What is happening to children on our borders is the result of pure hatred known as Trump immigration policy. There is no reframing it. Children are in cages and being treated like small animals (and now--dying), because Donald Trump--the man you voted for--put them there. Own it. If that works for you--live with yourself, but don't try to turn yourself into the voter who really cares about kids. That's laughable.

  • Astoria Jim Mamaroneck, NY
    June 26, 2019 11:01 p.m.

    Pundit David Frum said on TV that the US should accept people seeking asylum from governments which could injure or kill them, but not merely those seeking a better life because wages were poor or work non-existent in their home countries.
    Which brings up immigration to the United States from Europe 100 years ago.
    Most of the people I grew up with in New York were of Italian Catholic or Polish Jewish heritage. The ancestors of all of my Italian friends, as well as my Italian grandparents, came to America because job prospects were terrible in their cities and towns. There were no government programs to punish them for their faith. They were not forbidden to work or live anywhere. They were just miserably poor.
    My Jewish friends' ancestors' lives were a different matter. There were frequent pogroms in their little villages: young and old people were beaten, homes and shops burned, and synagogues defiled. Like the Italians who immigrated, they were poor, but they also endured bigotry and even violence perpetrated by their local governments.
    To use Mr Frum's theory, all of the persecuted Jews should have been admitted to America. But none of the merely poor Italians.

  • Truth2017 Salt Lake City, UT
    June 26, 2019 9:36 p.m.

    Its sad anytime in this world when people die in situations that are preventable.
    The problem with this story is the media sensationalizing the deaths to promote a political agenda.

    Condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.

    If the usa enforced its immigration laws, migrants would find it useless to illegally come to a place with no work and no benefits. Law and order do save lives.

  • 871256 Salt Lake City, UT
    June 26, 2019 9:00 p.m.

    Where was her mother.

  • deseret pete Springville, UT
    June 26, 2019 8:48 p.m.

    Those who blame Trump for this have no idea what they are talking about and are unaware of the law and have no respect for the law.

  • Iron Rod Salt Lake City, UT
    June 26, 2019 6:00 p.m.

    RE: Smart Cookie. Kissimmee, Florida
    June 26, 2019 3:59

    From reading the article I can see why you would call that family “Economic Refugees”

    Sure the times are tough in Central America.

    The last statistics I read is that the LDS Church has about 276,000 members in Guatemala alone. About four hundred chapels and six missions and two temples. Many of these peoples are our brothers.

    The article in my opinion down plays the violence and corruption in Central America. I failed to find any reference what so ever of MS-13 and the other gangs that are attempting to exert influence in El Salvador.

    The corruption is so prevalent that three out of four of the previous presidents of Guatemala have been indicted for corruption. The only reason it is not four out of four is that Guatemalan law states that a current sitting president can not be indicted.

    Rather than cutting foreign aid to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras as punishment as the administration has proposed, I feel we need to transfer some of the aid from the Middle East to Central America.

    We need to work on the root cause why these families do not feel safe in Central America

  • RiDal Sandy, UT
    June 26, 2019 5:17 p.m.

    @Utah Girl: "The photo symbolizes desperation, chaos, and failure. A man and his child desperately seeking freedom and a better future."

    We all want a factual viewpoint. Please elaborate. Are you claiming that Mexico is a failed state from which everyone must flee the chaos?

    According to international law, refugees may seek asylum in the first safe state they can contact. So no matter how desperate they may have been, they are now in Mexico. I don't think Mexico is regarded as a failed, refugee-producing state.

    I can see why they may want to enter the USA...that is why we have a legal immigration system. The have no excuse for trying to bypass legal methods.

  • taking a stand for truth Lehi, UT
    June 26, 2019 4:45 p.m.

    @Alex T - Murray, UT "No it won't change anything. the GOP simply doesn't care. Besides the fact these individuals are crossing coming into the country illegally. The ones who do make it across do not deserve to be treated similar to those were in Auschwitz."

    You seem to buy into all the false narrative the extreme liberals of your Dem party are telling you. You apparently know nothing about Auschwitz and Des News should not have published such a disgraceful statement. There is no comparison. Moreover, this article is not about deplorable living conditions the illegals face once they get here.

    Read the article. It is about people desperate to make the attempt to get into the US illegally. The Dems who used to be about borders and walls under Obama, are now anti-borders. What is the difference? Politics.

    Dems are playing politics. They refuse to pass simple meaningful legislation that would put a stop to these crossings if the law did not say you are in if you can cross the border. That is what is putting these lives, including children, at risk.

  • Utah Girl Chronicles Eagle Mountain, UT
    June 26, 2019 4:02 p.m.

    The photo symbolizes desperation, chaos, and failure. A man and his child desperately seeking freedom and a better future. The chaos they were fleeing from. The failure of our past and present immigration policies. A failed river crossing.

    There will always be people who thump their chests and say "they didn't play the game properly" or "it was the man's fault". But those are simplistic responses used to justify political leanings.

    The fact is that man risked everything for freedom so he and his child could live in the most freedom-loving country in the world. Who are we to blame him?

  • Smart Cookie Kissimmee, FL
    June 26, 2019 3:59 p.m.

    The media is saying these individuals were seeking asylum, but from the reading of an earlier article we find out that, according to the man's mother, they were trying to scrape together money to build a home. "They hoped to be there a few years and save up for the house." To me this sounds like there were planning to return to El Salvador. That does not seem like the actions of someone who would be needing asylum.
    According to the U.S. immigration law in the Refugee Act of 1980 (read President Carter) a refugee is "a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
    Someone trying to come to the United States for a few years to save up enough money to buy a house in El Salvador does not seem to fit the definition.
    While tragic and sad this individual was not, at least according to his mother, trying to follow the spirit of what asylum is.

  • scrappy do DRAPER, UT
    June 26, 2019 3:45 p.m.

    It is a very sad scene but I doubt it will change the illegal immigration debate... we either have a sane immigration plan or a free for all... I am not voting for the party that is in favor of a free for all

  • bemorefair , 00
    June 26, 2019 3:36 p.m.

    When I was on my mission many years ago in Central America (and a democrat was the president), people were trying to get into America illegally. And some of them never made it home. But the democrats are trying to say this is a new problem?

    No, this is not a new problem. What bothers me about this is the democrats are shouting for a solution to gain political points and votes. If they truly cared about solving the immigration problem, they would have come up with legislation to fix it long ago.

    As for my own personal beliefs, how do you think I feel about it? I saw immense suffering the two years I served the people of Central America. Of course I support their efforts to improve their lives. But the truth is they have no idea what they are getting themselves into when the try to come north. So many perils await them.

  • Tolstoy salt lake, UT
    June 26, 2019 3:33 p.m.

    This is the law: from the government website note it Clear states , “You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.” It also clearly states you have to be present in the US which is why Trump is refusing to let them cross.

    To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.
    A defensive application for asylum occurs when you request asylum as a defense against removal from the U.S. For asylum processing to be defensive, you must be in removal proceedings in immigration court with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

  • Tolstoy salt lake, UT
    June 26, 2019 3:22 p.m.

    @VickieB and RichardB
    If we had “open borders” this family could have crossed at the border crossing but it stead we have closed stations or stations that only allow five people a day to cross and ask for asylum.

    They are asylum seekers and have every right to cross through Mexico were they do not feel safe and ask for asylum in the US. The reason they ended up at the river is because Trump has slammed the door to safer passages into the US.

    It is not illegal to cross the border and ask for asylum. They likely did not want to wait because the conditions for people waiting in Mexico is very unsanitary and unsafe.

  • Donald Johnson Northern, MI
    June 26, 2019 2:49 p.m.

    I don't know if it will affect the overall immigration debate much, but it did affect my feelings. In the New Testament, Jesus said, "When I was a stranger, you took me in.... When you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." I am heartbroken by the deaths of the child and father trying to seek a better life for his family, even if illegally. As for me, I would prefer that we, my country, treat illegal aliens with kindness and respect and a concern for their safety, whether or not the immigrants are allowed to stay or are returned to their country.

  • RichardB Murray, UT
    June 26, 2019 2:12 p.m.

    Looking into it tells a different story. Mr Ramirez and his family had visited the US consulate in the city of Matamoros on Sunday, but instead of waiting in line like the rest of the asylum seekers, decided to cross the border illegally.

  • RiDal Sandy, UT
    June 26, 2019 2:09 p.m.

    Extremely sad photo.
    But how is this anyone's fault except for the person who made the very unwise choice to try to swim the river with their child ?!
    Let's recall the fact that these people are *not* "refugees". A refugee would be safe in Mexico. They are trying to get into the USA illegally just because they want to and don't want to do it legally.

  • RichardB Murray, UT
    June 26, 2019 2:02 p.m.

    100% the parents fault. If they came for asylum, they would not be crossing the river, but come across a bridge in a legal port of entry.

  • VickieB Salt Lake City, UT
    June 26, 2019 1:46 p.m.

    Deaths will continue to happen as long as our immigration laws are not enforced. Open borders is a magnet.