The heartbreaking photograph of a Salvadoran man and his 23-month-old daughter lying dead on the bank of the Rio Grande after having drowned attempting to cross illegally into Texas gained national attention last week and sparked dueling accusations: “Open borders” advocates claim the incident is the Trump administration’s fault, while those in favor of border security argue the tragedy is a result of lax immigration policy inspiring migrants to cross in record numbers, confident they can reside illegally in the country with little risk of deportation. But the president of El Salvador says the real blame falls on his own country.
“People don’t flee their homes because they want to,” Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said in a news conference in San Salvador this weekend. “They flee their homes because they feel they have to.”
“We can send all the blame to any government we like,” he said, speaking in English in what The New York Times suggests may have been intended as a direct message to Trump. “We can say President Trump’s policies are wrong. We can say Mexico’s policies are wrong. But what about our blame?”
“What country did they flee? Did they flee the United States?” Bukele asked. “They fled El Salvador, they fled our country. It is our fault.”
The Times notes that Bukele, 37, who won election in February, campaigned in part on “curb[ing] the outflow of Salvadorans, who have contributed in recent months to the surging numbers of migrants trying to enter the United States.”
Bukele’s comments about El Salvador’s role in illegal immigration to the U.S. aligns with comments made repeatedly by President Trump, who has threatened to cut aid money to the “Northern Triangle” Central American countries — El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, from which an increasing percentage of migrants have emigrated to the U.S. — unless they take action to address the crisis.
The left’s argument that the tragic deaths of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his little daughter Valeria is Trump’s fault is summarized by HuffPost:
The photo has quickly been cast as an emblematic image of President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies to rein in migration across the southern border with Mexico. The White House has forced many asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as part of a new policy to discourage people from seeking refuge in the U.S., but critics say it’s ‘not safe’ for those who are already vulnerable. The Mexican government said earlier this month more than 15,000 people have been sent back to the country as part of Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy.
Border security advocates, however, point to the details of the tragedy as more evidence that the real problem is lax immigration policies and enforcement and the lack of a security fence on most of the border. Ramirez had applied for asylum, but as family members acknowledged to reporters, his family was not actually fleeing persecution; rather, they wanted a chance to make a better living in the U.S. for a few years before returning to their country.
“They left El Salvador on April 3 and spent two months in a migrant camp in southern Mexico, awaiting news of their asylum request to the US, before they decided to take a bus to the border on Sunday to try to speed up their case,” The Daily Mail reported. “When they arrived, the consulate was closed but they also learned they were far down a list of hundreds of migrants in line for interviews. They decided to make the crossing illegally rather than wait — a decision that led to their deaths.”