Graphic image: Mother of man who drowned with daughter crossing river to US takes solace 'they died in each other's arms'

Graphic image: Mother of man who drowned with daughter crossing river to US takes solace 'they died in each other's arms'

The mother of a man who drowned alongside his young daughter while trying to reach the US has said she is comforted by how they clung to each other in their final moments.

Rosa Ramirez said she finds a photograph showing the bodies of her son and his 23-month-old daughter drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande into Texas hard to look at.

She said: "You can see how he protected her, they died in each other's arms."

Her 25-year-old son, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, and his daughter Valeria were swept away by the current near Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas.

The grim photo showed the girl tucked inside her father's shirt for protection with her arm draped over his neck - an image that underscores the dangers migrants face trying to make it to the United States and the desperate measures they resort to in the face of policies designed to deter them.

Speaking at their Salvadoran home, Ms Ramirez said:

"It's tough, it's kind of shocking, that image. But at the same time, it fills me with tenderness. I feel so many things because at no time did he let go of her."

The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, Monday, June 24, 2019, after they drowned trying to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. (AP Photo/Julia Le Duc)
The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, Monday, June 24, 2019, after they drowned trying to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. (AP Photo/Julia Le Duc)

Ms Ramirez had shared the home with barred windows in San Martin on the outskirts of the capital, San Salvador, with her son, his wife, 21-year-old Tania Vanessa Avalos and their daughter until the young family decided to make the journey north.

In their working-class neighbourhood of about 40,000, Mr Martinez worked in a pizzeria and Ms Avalos as a cashier in a fast-food restaurant, Ms Ramirez said.

The area has had problems with gang violence but these days it "is calm" she said, adding that he never had any problems with gangs - they left for economic reasons.

Ms Ramirez said that she had given them the big room in the two-bedroom house, but they dreamed of saving money for a place of their own and that drove the family to head for the United States in early April.

"I told him, 'Son, don't go. But if you do go, leave me the girl,'" Ms Ramirez said.

"'No, mama,'" she said he replied. "'How can you think that I would leave her?' He didn't have the courage to leave her.'"

Now she feels a hole that "nobody can fill, but God gives me strength," Ms Ramirez said.

Marta Argueta de Andrade, their 50-year-old neighbour, said she met the family about five years ago. She described them as "good people" and Mr Martinez as an easygoing young man.

"I would see him walking with the girl. He called her 'little curly one,'" Ms Argueta said. "It was very sweet."

Officials have said the bodies were expected to be returned to El Salvador on Thursday. Ms Ramirez said she was not sure when they would arrive, but that the government was paying for it.

"I would say to those who are thinking of migrating, they should think it over because not everyone can live that American dream you hear about," Ms Ramirez said.

"We can put up a fight here. How much I would like to have my son and my granddaughter here. One way or another, we get by in our country."

Meanwhile, Leading Democrats have said they hope a photo of the bodies of a migrant father and his baby daughter will challenge the Trump administration's conscience.

House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi referenced a picture that has gone viral of a man who drowned alongside his 23-month-old daughter while trying to cross the Rio Grande into Texas.

The photo caught the attention of politicians as members of Congress work to provide 4.5 billion US dollars in humanitarian aid for people detained while crossing the southern US border.

Ms Pelosi said: "This isn't who we are as a country. We have obligations to humanity that are being completely ignored.

"This is a manifestation of behaviour that is outside the circle of civilised human behaviour."

She said she hopes the picture will show that "something could be done that is better".

Asked if the photos could alter the immigration debate, Ms Pelosi said: "I would hope so, but we've had many challenges to conscience which haven't. But let's hope that this just tips the scale."

- Press Association

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