The father and daughter drowned as they tried to cross the river to Texas. (AP: Julia Le Duc)
The man and his 23-month-old daughter lay face down in the shallow water on the banks of the Rio Grande. His black shirt pulled to the chest with the girl.
Her arm was around his neck, indicating that she was clinging to him in her last moments.
- Her family sought asylum from El Salvador in the US, but the couple drowned across the US-Mexico border
- Tighter migration policies have reduced the number of migrants granted asylum in the US
- In total, 283 deaths of migrants were recorded last year, including along the border
Warning: This story contains an image that some readers may find depressing.
The scorching photograph of the discovery of their bodies reveals the dangers that most Central American migrants face fleeing violence and poverty and hoping for asylum in the United States. It was recorded by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.
According to Le Duc, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez swam across the river with his daughter Valeria on Sunday (local time), frustrated because the El Salvador family was unable to present themselves to the US authorities and seek asylum.
He set her down on the US bank of the river and headed back to his wife Tania Vanessa Avalos, but when he saw that he was leaving, his daughter threw himself into the water.
Mr Martinez returned to grab Valeria, but the current tore both of them away.
Warning: stressful picture. The bodies were found downstream on the banks of the Rio Grande in Mexico. (AP: Julia Le Duc)
The report was based on statements by Mrs. Avalos "in tears" and "shouts" to the local police, said Le Duc to The Associated Press.
The photo recalls the image of a three-year-old Syrian boy from 2015 who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea near Turkey. However, it remains to be seen if it has the same effect when it comes to turning international attention to migration to the US.
The US metering directive has drastically reduced the number of migrants that can apply for asylum, from dozens the day before to sometimes only a handful in some entry ports.
A local government official said the family arrived in Matamoros, Mexico on early Sunday and went to the US Consulate to try and get an asylum application.
The mother is 21 years old and the father was 25, he added.
But the waiting times are long, because they are elsewhere on the border. Last week, an animal shelter director said that in Matamoros, only about 40 to 45 asylum interviews were conducted each week, while in other parts of the neighborhood up to 1,700 names were on a waiting list.
It is unclear what happened to the family at the US consulate, but they have decided to cross later in the day.
For a long time, the border between the US and Mexico was a deadly transition between the ports of entry. A total of 283 migrants died last year, but this year's toll has not yet been released.
Two babies, a toddler and a wife were found dead on Sunday, overwhelmed by the oppressive heat.
They hoped to "save for a house"
Rosa Ramirez said her son and family spent about two months in a shelter near Mexico. (AP: Antonio Valladares)
The search for Mr. Martinez and his daughter was suspended on Sunday due to the dark and their bodies were traced the next morning near Matamoros, Mexico, across from Texas, several hundred yards from the spot where they had tried to cross, and only one kilometer from an international station, discovered bridge.
Weeks ago, officials had been in shelters to warn against attempting to cross the river, which was supposedly swollen with water released by dams for irrigation.
On the surface, the Rio Grande seems calm, but strong currents flow underneath.
Rosa Ramirez, the mother of the drowned man, said her son and family had left El Salvador on April 3 and spent about two months in a shelter in Tapachula near the Mexican border with Guatemala.
"I asked her not to leave, but he wanted to scrape together money to build a house," she said.
"They hoped to be there for a few years and save for the house."
El Salvador's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was working to help the family, including Ms. Avalos, who was in a border patrol for migrants after drowning.
The bodies were to be flown to El Salvador on Thursday.
"Very regrettable that this would happen," Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador responded to a question about the photo.
"We have always denounced that there are people who lose their lives in the desert or when crossing the river, because there is more rejection in the US."
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
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