Government officials in El Salvador are warning people against putting their lives at risk to reach the US on the heels of a man and his baby daughter drowning in the Rio Grande.
Photos of their bodies, found face down in shallow water with the 23-month-old girl’s arm around her father’s neck, have sparked wide condemnation.
This tragedy comes as the US and Mexico seek to implement more stringent policies aimed at stemming the increase of undocumented migrants, mostly from Central America, traveling north.
At least six people have died in recent days.
Many of the migrants plan to seek asylum in the US and say they are fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
President Donald Trump’s tougher stance on immigration is being blamed for driving migrants to take more dangerous routes.
An alarming 283 migrants are said to have died on the US-Mexico border in 2018, according to US Border Patrol, but human rights activists say the number is more likely to be higher.
Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his daughter Valeria drowned on Sunday while trying to cross from Matamoros, in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, into Texas.
The image, which surfaced on Monday, was captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published in Mexican newspaper La Jornada.
His wife and the daughter’s mother, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21, said they had been living in Mexico for two months on a humanitarian visa, AP news agency reports.
Frustrated after being unable to present themselves to US officials and seek asylum, they had decided to cross the river.
Mr Ramírez managed to get across with their daughter and set her down on the bank, then began returning for his wife, she told Mexican police.
But alone on the riverbank, Valeria panicked and jumped in after her father. He made it back to her but both were swept away by the river’s dangerous currents.
“I begged them not to go, but he wanted to scrape together money to build a home,” Rosa Ramírez, Óscar’s mother, told AP.
El Salvador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexandra Hill, has called on citizens to stop putting their lives at risk by trying to migrate illegally.
The government said it would cover the expenses needed to bring back the two bodies and would provide “necessary support” to their relatives.