On Monday, June 24, a photographer for the Associated Press captured a horrific and haunting image: one of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, drowned face-down in the Rio Grande River. They were attempting to cross into America to apply for asylum, but were swept downstream by a strong current. Tania Vanessa Ávalos, Óscar’s wife and Valeria’s mother, survived.
The photograph of Óscar and Valeria swiftly drew comparisons to the 2015 image of a drowned three-year-old Syrian child, Alan Kurdi, that encapsulated the horrors of the refugee crisis.
But RAICES, a Texas-based nonprofit organization that’s been at the forefront of providing services to people crossing into the United States from Mexico, came out against the use of the photograph. “The media wants you to view them as just another tragedy, more #’s to rack up migrant deaths. They will show you the graphic image saying it will make people “care” or “move them into action.” We think otherwise,” RAICES tweeted, offering instead a photograph of Óscar, Tania, and Valeria together that was given to RAICES by the family.
The organization explained their choice in a series of tweets, saying:
“No less heartbreaking, this photo depicts the family’s truth. Were they migrants? Yes. But before they were migrants they were a family. A normal family who wanted the best for their children & risked it all in search of refuge & a better life. Today we honor them & pay homage to the countless others who’ve made the dangerous journey here.”
RAICES condemned the “remain in Mexico” and “metering” policies, which put a limit on the number of people who can cross into the U.S. each day, as the cause of this tragedy.
“We can no longer stand by as this administration continues to build walls. It’s time we build bridges into our society, so that ALL members are afforded their rights and treated with dignity,” RAICES added.