Fri, Jun 28, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Drowned migrants had an ‘American dream’

AFP, SAN SALVADOR

“They had this American dream,” sobbed Rosa Ramirez after images of her drowned son and granddaughter, discovered face-down on the banks of the Rio Grande between Mexico and the US, shocked the world on Wednesday.

The poignant pictures of Oscar Alberto Martinez and his toddler daughter Valeria — not yet two years old — has sparked outrage in El Salvador, where about 200 migrants like them leave for the US daily, preparing to take similar risks.

“The pain has been immense. I still can’t believe that my boy and my little granddaughter are dead, they only wanted to get to the United States ... they had this American dream — to achieve a better life,” Oscar’s mother said.

Ramirez was speaking by telephone from her home in a gang-haunted eastern barrio of the capital, San Salvador, where 25-year-old Oscar worked in a pizzeria before trying his luck as a migrant.

Grieving family members said that Oscar, his wife, Tania, 21, and Valeria left El Salvador on April 3.

They had spent two months in Mexico. Housed in a migrant shelter in Tapachula, they grew impatient after starting the process of applying for asylum in the US, and set out to try their luck at the border.

On Sunday, they arrived at the Rio Grande and tried to cross.

Tania stayed on the Mexican side of the river as Martinez swam with Valeria inside his T-shirt to the Texas side, left her on the riverbank and started back to get his wife.

Seeing him leave, the girl threw herself into the water. Martinez returned to get her, but both were swept away.

Oscar’s mother said she remembered asking the couple “not to leave, that going to the United States is very dangerous.”

Yet she said both parents wanted their girl to have a better future.

“My son told me that he dreamed that my Valeria would grow up in the United States, far from poverty,” Ramirez said. “He wanted to buy a house for his family and have a better life.”

Oscar had always taken his family responsibilities very seriously, his mother said.

“The girl was his world and today we have the two of them gone to heaven,” she said.

“This has happened to my boy and my little grandchild today — we don’t know who else is going to suffer tomorrow, all we know is that they don’t want undocumented people in the United States,” Ramirez said.

“The deaths of Oscar and Valeria represent a failure to address the violence and desperation pushing people to take journeys of danger for the prospect of a life in safety and dignity,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said. “This is compounded by the absence of safe pathways for people to seek protection, leaving people with no other choice than to risk their lives.”

Additional reporting by AP

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