President Donald Trump blamed his political opponents’ immigration policies Wednesday for the drowning deaths of a migrating father and daughter, saying the policies are the reason they were traveling across the river in the first place.
Speaking to reporters at the White House before departing for Japan, Trump suggested that tougher immigration policies would deter future families from attempting to cross into the US, though his administration’s harsh measures, including the separation of families, have done little to stem the flow of illegal immigration to the US.
“I hate it,” Trump said. “That father, who probably was this wonderful guy, with his daughter, things like this wouldn’t happen.”
The shocking image shows the bodies of Oscar Alberto Martínez and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria, from El Salvador, lying face down in murky waters littered with reeds and discarded beer bottles on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. Their heads are wrapped in a black T-shirt, and her tiny right arm is draped over his shoulders.
The pair drowned Sunday as they were crossing from Mexico into Texas near Brownsville. The man’s widow, Tania, told the Mexican newspaper La Jornada she saw her husband and child carried away.
Trump, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, went on to blame Democrats for “their asylum policy.” He called the trip to the United States “a very dangerous journey, a very, very dangerous journey,” and said “the asylum policy of the Democrats is responsible because they will not change the policy.”
Trump again falsely claimed that the Democrats want open borders, which isn’t a mainstream position for the party, and said “open borders mean people drowning in the rivers.”
“If they fix the laws, you wouldn’t have that,” he said. “They wouldn’t be trying.”
“It’s very important. They can change it very easily, so people don’t come up and people won’t get killed,” the President continued.
Ports of entry along the border have long been overwhelmed by the surging asylum claims, Customs and Border Protection officials have said.
But US policies that make it harder for those seeking asylum to turn themselves in at ports of entry are pushing more migrants to take deadly risks and cross in more dangerous areas, advocates have said, warning the number of deaths at the border will increase.
CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Steve Almasy and Natalie Gallón contributed to this report.