It’s a single, haunting photograph that tells a horrible story, and almost two thousand miles away, may have a critical impact on the deadlocked immigration debate in Washington.
The father is seen lying face down in Rio Grande River near Brownsville, Texas — his 23-month old daughter’s arm around his neck — both dead after authorities said they drowned on Monday trying to cross from Mexico into the U.S.
President Donald Trump reacted to the photo Wednesday on his way to the G-20 summit in Japan, blaming Democrats. “If they fix the laws, you wouldn’t have that,” Trump said. “It can be a very rough river.. very dangerous. They should change it so that people won’t come up, so they won’t get killed.”
“Open borders mean people drowning in rivers,” he continued. “That father, who probably was this wonderful guy with his daughter — things like that wouldn’t happen.”
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The top Senate Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday morning next to a poster-sized version of the photo.
“President Trump, I want you to look at this photo. These are not drug dealers or vagrants or criminals. They are people simply fleeing a horrible situation in their home country for a better life,” he said. “So, President Trump, if you want to know the real reason there’s chaos at the border, look in the mirror,” Schumer said.
“We all—Democrats, Republicans, Americans—have a responsibility to act here,” Schumer said, as the Senate was expected to vote on Wednesday on emergency border funding, including money at detention centers where reports say children have been mistreated.
Across the Capitol, a similar sentiment came from the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, at a hearing on what to do about the immigration crisis.
“I realize tragedies occur in this country—all over the world. I don’t want to see another picture like that on the U.S. border,” said Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. “I hope that picture alone with catalyze this Congress, this Senate, this committee to do something.”
The photos also show the child’s mother pointing out to Mexican authorities where she said her husband and daughter were swept away by the current hundreds of yards from where they had tried to cross.