The mother of a Salvadoran man who drowned with his young daughter while trying to reach U.S. soil, becoming a global symbol of the perils of migration, said she urged her son not to leave, fearing danger would meet him on the long journey north.
A harrowing photograph of Oscar Alberto Martinez and his toddler daughter Valeria lying face down on the banks of the Rio Grande river between the United States and Mexico ricocheted across social media this week and renewed debate in the United States about the plight of Central American migrants.
Speaking with Reuters from her home in the central municipality of San Martin, Rosa Ramirez, Oscar's mother, cradled two of her granddaughter's most treasured toys, a blue-eyed baby doll and a stuffed purple monkey. Her friends have urged her to store her son and granddaughter's belongings, but she is not ready for that yet.
"Ever since he first told me that they wanted to go, I told him not to," Ramirez said, recalling conversations with her son.
"I had a feeling, it was such an ugly premonition. As a mother, I sensed that something could happen."
That system has contributed to growing numbers of migrants crossing the border illegally to hand themselves into authorities and ask for asylum.
Mexican officials pledged to do more to halt the flow of migrants to the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to slap tariffs on the country's exports this month unless it tightened procedures.
The perils of the journey weighed heavily on Ramirez as Oscar and his young family set off for the United States, she said. Now, she said, her primary concern is bringing their bodies back home.
U.S. officials told Congress on Wednesday that they did not have adequate staffing and facilities to handle the surge of migrants seeking asylum and made it harder to intercept drug smuggling and staff customs operations at ports of entry.