The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis has seen the photograph of two migrants who drowned in the Rio Grande while attempting to cross into the US from Mexico.
“With immense sadness, the Holy Father has seen the images of the father and his baby daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande River while trying to cross the border between Mexico and the United States,” said Alessandro Gisotti, the interim Director of the Holy See Press Office.
“The Pope is profoundly saddened by their death and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery.”
Images of Salvadorian migrants Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Angie Valeria, face down in the Rio Grande were published around the world, drawing sharp criticism of America’s current immigration policy as thousands of immigrants, fleeing their countries due to violence, poverty, and corruption.
“Her arm was draped around his neck suggesting she clung to him in her final moments.”https://t.co/Lw70EIzMtO— Ashley Parker (@AshleyRParker) June 25, 2019
The pair, along with Tania Vanessa Ávalos, the wife of Ramírez and mother to Valeria, were attempting to cross the river at the border crossing between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas.
During his weekly general audience, the pope called on Christians to be more welcoming of others.
While greeting Spanish-speaking pilgrims, he praised Mexico, which has seen an increased influx of Central American migrants, "because they are so welcoming, so welcoming to migrants."
"May God repay you," he said.
Pope Francis has shown his support for Mexico's immigration policy in the past and in 2016 criticized then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, suggesting that anyone who wanted to build a wall along the border was “not a Christian."
Tragedy of migrant father and child at US-Mexico border
On Sunday afternoon, June 23, Ramírez reportedly first crossed the Rio Grande River with his daughter and left her along the bank while returning back to help his wife cross.
However, upon being left alone, Valeria was frightened and jumped into the river.
Rushing to save her, Martinez and his daughter were instead dragged by the current while Tania was rescued by a person nearby.
She told Mexican authorities she watched her husband and child disappear in the strong current
Twelve hours later, firefighters from Matamoros, Mexico, found the two bodies, both face down, with Valeria's lifeless arm clutching her father's neck.
The family had fled poverty in El Salvator with a humanitarian visa in Mexico two months earlier and had been awaiting asylum in the US.
United States bishops blame US immigration system
The United States bishops also released a statement on the deaths Wednesday, blaming the drowning on “a failed immigration system.”
“The cry of a father and his baby daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande reaches heaven itself," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President of the U.S. Bishops Conference (USCCB) and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration.
"This unspeakable consequence of a failed immigration system, together with growing reports of inhumane conditions for children in the custody of the federal government at the border, shock the conscience and demand immediate action.”
“This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis?” they said.
“Recent reports of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions are appalling and unacceptable for any person in U.S. custody, but particularly for children, who are uniquely vulnerable. Such conditions cannot be used as tools of deterrence,” they added.