Tuesday 15 October 2019

Trump, Democrats blame each other over migrant deaths at US border

Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and daughter Valeria’s bodies were photographed face down in the Rio Grande.

Yellow tape along the Rio Grande bank where the bodies of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria were found (AP Photo/Julia Le Duc)
Yellow tape along the Rio Grande bank where the bodies of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria were found (AP Photo/Julia Le Duc)

By Jill Colvin, Deb Riechmann and Will Weissert, Associated Press

US President Donald Trump and Democrats are blaming each other for the deaths of a migrant father and his toddler daughter.

The pair’s bodies have been seen in photographs, symbolising the perils faced by those trying to cross illegally into the US.

Speaking with reporters as he left the White House for a four-day trip to Asia, Mr Trump said he was disturbed by the images.

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Mr Trump has blamed the Democrats (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

But he said the deaths could have been prevented and castigated Democrats for failing to pass legislation he claimed would stop people from trying to make the dangerous trek.

He said: “If we had the right laws, that the Democrats are not letting us have, those people, they wouldn’t be coming up. They wouldn’t be trying.

“They can change it very easily so people don’t come up and people won’t get killed.”

Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and daughter Valeria were trying to cross into the US after fleeing from El Salvador when they were swept into the Rio Grande.

Photos by journalist Julia Le Duc and first published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada show their bodies lying face down near the riverbank. Her arm was draped around his neck, suggesting she clung to her father in their final moments.

When asked about the picture Mr Trump said: “I hate it. And I know it could stop immediately if the Democrats change the law. They have to change the laws. And then that father, who probably was this wonderful guy, with his daughter, things like that wouldn’t happen.”

Both the Senate and House has approved separate legislation to provide funding for the care of migrants streaming into the US, but the bills have yet to be merged and the next step is unclear. Congressional leaders hope to send Mr Trump a compromise measure before members of Congress leave town for a July 4 recess.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said: “Mr President, you are President of the United States. You are head of the executive branch. You control what’s happening at the border.”

Many Democrats vying to deny Mr Trump a second term responded, meanwhile, by spending the final hours before their party’s first primary debate in Miami visiting a detention facility for immigrant teenagers about 40 miles to the south-west in Homestead.

“There were children who were being marched like little soldiers, like little prisoners,” said senator Elizabeth Warren, who was not allowed inside but was permitted to look over the fence.

She added that she did not see children playing or laughing “like they usually do”.

Ms Warren said: “This is not what we should be doing as a country. These children committed no crime, these children pose no threat.”

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