The migrant father and his 23-month-old daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande on Sunday died when she jumped back in the water to follow him as he swam back to get his wife after being safely carried to the US side of the river.
Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez , 25, his wife Tania, 21, lived with Tania’s mother and were surviving on $10 a day which he earned by working in a Papa Johns pizza shop.
Their dream was to move to the US and save enough money to buy a house, they left El Salvador on April 3 and spent two months in a migrant camp in southern Mexico.
There, they were granted a humanitarian visa in Tapachula, which would have allowed them to work for a year there while they awaited news of their asylum request in the US.
After two months in southern Mexico with no prospect of entering the US legally, the family decided to make their way to the border to push their case forward.
They decided to take a bus to the border on Sunday to try to speed up their case. Oscar had carried Valeria across the river from Matamoros in Mexico to the banks of the river in Brownsville, Texas, and had turned around to fetch his wife, 21-year-old Tania Vanessa Ávalos, from the other side.
Valeria jumped back in to the water when she saw her father go back in. Oscar had tucked Valeria into his t-shirt to stop her from drifting away from him.
He had dropped her on the US side of the Rio Grande and had turned back to get Tania, still on the Mexican side, but Valeria jumped into the water after him and the pair were swept away, while Tania watched on helpless from the other side.
The family arrived in Matamoros on Sunday after boarding a bus in southern Mexico. They went straight to the International Bridge and tried to get an appointment to discuss their asylum case but it was closed and they learned there were hundreds of people in front of them so they tried to cross themselves and were swept away.
His parents want their deaths to serve as a lesson for anyone who is thinking about crossing the border.