The girl entered the water to get to her dad, who had gone back for his wife
“With immense sadness, the Holy Father has seen the images of the father and his baby daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande River while trying to cross the border between Mexico and the United States.”
Alessandro Gisotti, the ad interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, gave that statement Wednesday in response to journalists’ questions.
“The pope is profoundly saddened by their death, and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery,” he added.
The US bishops also spoke out about the case:
Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his daughter Valeria, just a month short of 2 years old, drowned in the Rio Grande River on Sunday, as they attempted to reach the United States.
The lifeless bodies of the two migrants from El Salvador washed ashore on the Mexican side of the border, in Matamoros, in Tamaulipas state, across from Brownsville, Texas.
They were found on Monday just one kilometer from an international bridge.
For many, the photo brings to mind little Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish ethnic background whose image made global headlines after he drowned on September 2, 2015, in the Mediterranean Sea.
Pope Francis has made the plight of migrants and refugees one of the main themes of his pontificate, constantly reminding the faithful and all people of good will that migrants are people with names, faces, and histories just like ours.
Vatican News reported some of the details of the death of the father and daughter:
A reporter for La Jornada, Julia Le Duc, said Mr. Martinez Ramirez arrived in Matamoros on Sunday with his wife, Vanessa Avalos, and daughter, Valeria.
The reporter witnessed Mrs. Avalos give her account to the police.
She said the family had hoped to request asylum from US authorities but that Mr. Martinez Ramirez decided to swim across when he found out it could take weeks before they could even start the process.
“He crossed first with the little girl and he left her on the American side. Then he turned back to get his wife, but the girl went into the water after him. When he went to save her, the current took them both,” Le Duc told the Guardian.
Dozens of people have died already this year attempting to cross the Rio Grande – known as the Rio Bravo in Mexico.
On Sunday, two infants, a toddler, and a woman were found dead from heat exhaustion in Anzalduas Park, in the southern Texas city of Mission.