The water and the mud of the Rio Grande swallows up souls and life. It is an insatiable monster which takes, pulling in everything which comes by it. All it takes is a single misstep or a fast and abnormal current to make all the difference between life and death. It is possible, maybe, that Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, who was just 23 months old, knew nothing about this. Certainly, there have been stories of other migrants that have fallen victim to the thousands of dangers in this area, but it was not enough to stop them. Òscar decided regardless to take small Valeria, protecting her by putting her inside his shirt to cross the waters all for a singular objective: to get to the United States. But this was not to be: shortly after leaving, the great river took them without mercy. Just a few days prior the same fate befell a woman and her three children.

An image that shook America

The bodies of Òscar and Valeria were published (and photographed) by journalist Julia Le Duc, a few hours after their death. The image was originally published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada and just a short time later was to been seen around the globe. 

Many, including Democratic congressman Joaquim Castro, have compared it to what happened to Alan Kurdi, the small Syrian child found dead at the beginning of September 2015 on the Turkish coast, following a tragic shipwreck. Parallels have also been drawn to Omran Daqneesh, who became the symbol of violence in Aleppo following a Russian raid on the city (even if his father – who now lives in territory under the control of the regime – now has a different story regarding that period). An evocative image, therefore, and politically powerful. 

This has already been proven, as the photo was soon used to attack president Donald Trump, culpable for having started a series of restrictive regulations aimed at migrants and for wanting a new barrier to stop the influx of people from Mexico. To be clear, this is all true. However the blame cannot be attributed solely to the American President. The barrier between the two countries, was in fact constructed by George H. W. Bush, before being expanded on by Bill Clinton, a hero within the Democratic party. The situation was then certainly not improved by George Bush junior and nor by Barack Obama either. 

An article published by Stampa in 2014 shows the cruelty which reigns at the border between the two countries: “We know that at the start, the number of boys and girls is equal, but then only 75% of the former and 25% of the latter make it all the way. What happens during the journey? Many don’t make it and die. For the children, then, they become the prey of human traffickers, who offer coyotes as much as 20 thousand dollars, compared to the 4 thousand they would take for a family if they were to complete the journey. So the children are sold to the highest bidder and end up in prostitution: just one month ago a sex ring was discovered in New Jersey. Then there are the coyotes that lend children to adults that wish to immigrate, thinking that if they take a pretend son or daughter with them that they have a greater chance of being able to stay. Once they have crossed the border they don’t know what to do with these kids, and so just abandon them.”

The government is not an NGO (and vice versa)

Trump and Obama have essentially done the same thing, but with different politics: they have defended the national border. This is one of the principles needed in order to govern: to cut down on those pushing to cross the borders.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean everyone: there are those who are fleeing from war and persecution and have to be admitted. But there are many others that, understandably, want a better future, but even the best of presidents cannot possible welcome everyone, unless you want for your country to be destroyed. 

The expectation for a nation to totally open its borders is therefore illogical. As well as counterproductive. 

This is why there are NGOs that do not care about what may be the political repercussions of their actions, with their primary goal to have the means of helping those who are suffering. 

These two organisms, government and NGOs, must find a way to collaborate in a way such as to enforce the law, while at the same time, reducing to a minimum the suffering of men, women, and children. But this does not always happen, as demonstrated by the recent Sea Watch case. The results are there for all to see.