Democrats pin blame for deaths on Trump's hard-line policies
Candidates hoping to run for the US presidency have blamed Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policies for the deaths of migrants on the US border after a graphic photograph of a father and his daughter lying dead in the Rio Grande shocked the world.
The image has quickly come to symbolise the humanitarian crisis on America's southern border and it caused an outpouring of sympathy from across the globe.
Now leading Democrats, ahead of the first primary debate of the 2020 race last night, have been quick to lay the blame for the tragedy directly at the US president's door.
"Trump is responsible for these deaths," presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke bluntly stated in a tweet.
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, the two front-runners in the Democratic race, also lambasted the president.
Mr Sanders called the photograph "horrific", saying it demonstrated "the reckless disregard for basic humanity that has come from Trump's policies".
Mr Biden called it "gut-wrenching" and "unconscionable".
Senator Kamala Harris said the situation was "a stain on our moral conscience", while fellow senator Cory Booker described the picture as "the consequences of Donald Trump's inhumane and immoral immigration policy".
Mr Trump was typically defiant yesterday, saying the picture was proof that he "was right" about a crisis on the border and he turned his fire on Democrats who have opposed his immigration policies, including funding for his proposed border wall.
"I hate it," he said of the picture. "And I know it could stop immediately if the Democrats change the laws and then that father, who probably was a wonderful guy, with his daughter, things like this wouldn't happen. That's a very dangerous journey."
He added: "The asylum policy of the Democrats is responsible because they will not change the policy."
Mr Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration and asylum claims a cornerstone of his presidency, most recently with a plan to send thousands of asylum seekers back to Mexico while their cases are considered.
As part of the plan, the Mexican government has so far deployed more than 20,000 troops to its borders to stem the tide of migrants.
However, human rights organisations have warned that the move risks causing migrants to attempt ever more dangerous routes to reach the US.
As the photo of Mr Ramirez and his young daughter was broadcast around the world, Democrats in the House of Representatives approved an emergency bill for $4.5bn (€4bn) in humanitarian aid to address the plight of migrants at the border.
The bill was then voted down by the Senate, which has drafted its own bill that would allocate $4.59bn for the border crisis, but with fewer conditions on how the money can be spent, adding to the uncertainty over whether a deal can be reached.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said he and most Democrats would vote for the bipartisan bill. He said: "How could President Trump look at this picture and not understand these are human beings, fleeing violence and persecution, willing to risk a perilous - sometimes fatal - journey in search of a better life?"
Mr Trump said passing the legislation was urgent as he left the White House for Japan, and he appeared to leave the door open for negotiations.
He said: "We are moving along very well with a bipartisan bill in the Senate.
"It's very far along and I believe the House is also going to also be getting together with the Senate to get something done. It's humanitarian aid. It's very important."
The final outcome is not clear. An impasse could imperil passage of the measure, which is needed soon before federal agencies caring for migrants are hamstrung by lack of money.
Congress plans to leave Washington in a few days for a week-long July 4 recess, and pressure is intense to wrap up the legislation before then. (© Daily Telegraph, London)