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Say Their Names: This Father-Daughter Pair Were Found Dead, Washed Up On Banks Of Rio Grande After Attempting To Swim Across

Just hours after news broke that a woman and three children were found dead at the US-Mexico border, we have confirmation of two more deaths.

This time it’s a father-daughter pair who died a horrific death trying to find a better life in the United States.

Across social media, horrific pictures are circulating showing the victims’ lifeless bodies drowned in the Rio Grande.

Heartbreaking images reveal the tragedy of a father who drowned with his 23-month-old daughter as he went back to try and save her in the Rio Grande while her mother watched on.

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Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his daughter Valeria were found face down in shallow water on the Mexico side of the river across from Brownsville, Texas on Monday morning.

Their deaths are the latest in a string of migrant deaths at the US-Mexico border.

Just yesterday, the bodies of four undocumented people, one 20-year-old woman, two infants, and a toddler, were found near the Rio Grande.

The father had successfully taken his daughter to the US side of the border but the little girl followed her father back as he returned for the mother.

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After waiting desperately for two months in a migrant camp Ramírez crossed the lethal currents near Matamoros first with his child before returning to other the side for his wife Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21.

But their youngster, misunderstanding why she had been left on the other side got back into the water and Ramírez fatefully went in to save her.

Ávalos could only watch in horror as her husband and daughter were swept a few hundred yards downstream to their deaths.

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Photos from the scene show his black shirt hiked up to his chest with the girl’s head tucked inside. Her arm was draped around his neck suggesting she clung to him in her final moments. 

The family had been waiting nearly two months in an overcrowded migrant camp before finally deciding to make the dangerous crossing.

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Ávalos said the family left El Salvador on April 3 and that they spent the last two months in Mexico at a migrant camp waiting for an appointment to apply for asylum to enter the U.S.

A Tamaulipas government official said the family arrived in Matamoros early Sunday and went to the U.S. Consulate to try to get a date to request asylum. 

It’s not clear what happened to the family at the U.S. Consulate, but a shelter director said only about 40 to 45 asylum interviews were being conducted in Matamoros each week, while somewhere in the neighborhood of 800-1,700 names were on a waiting list.

Twitter lit up with reaction to both the devastating photo and the story behind it.

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The devastating news and shocking photo have generated tons of comments on Twitter.

Many are frustrated by the government’s inability to take action to help migrants.

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The issue of migrant deaths shouldn’t be fought along party lines. Each and every member of government should be able to agree that steps need to be taken, first and foremost, to stop people from dying.

While many on Twitter were outraged at the comments from people completely lacking empathy and compassion for the lives lost.

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Sadly, there are still way too many comments on Twitter from people who say migrants shouldn’t risk the journey and that they’d survive. Too many people still don’t get it.

From the scorching Sonora desert to the fast-moving Rio Grande, the US-Mexico border has long been a deadly journey for migrants trying to cross into the US.

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In recent weeks alone, two babies, a toddler and a woman were found dead on Sunday, overcome by the sweltering heat. 

Elsewhere three children and an adult from Honduras died in April after their raft capsized on the Rio Grande, and a 6-year-old from India was found dead earlier this month in Arizona, where temperatures routinely soar well above 100 degrees.

‘Very regrettable that this would happen,’ Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday in response to a question about the photograph. 

‘We have always denounced that as there is more rejection in the United States, there are people who lose their lives in the desert or crossing the river,” he added.

The tragic deaths come amid reports of squalid conditions and overcrowding at migrant shelters.

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“The kids had colds and were sick and said they didn’t have access to soap to wash their hands. It was an alcohol-based cleanser,” Clara Long, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch said to CNN. “Some kids who were detained for 2-3 weeks had only one or two opportunities to shower. One said they hadn’t showered in three weeks. Hygiene and living conditions like this creates a risk of spreading infectious disease. It makes me very concerned about the public health emergency.”

It Hasn’t Always Been A Crime To Cross The US-Mexico Border, So When Did Things Change?

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It Hasn’t Always Been A Crime To Cross The US-Mexico Border, So When Did Things Change?

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Let’s start from the beginning. While immigration has been an issue on everyone’s lips over the past while after the Trump administration started enforcing a zero tolerance policy against border crossings, a new way of thinking about the issue was introduced during the Democratic debates.

Presidential hopeful Julián Castro suggested that border crossings should be decriminalized. Because if border crossings aren’t a criminal offense, then people can’t be charged for crossing the border illegally, right? Well, in short, yes. But the issue concerning what’s officially known as “Section 1325” is more complicated than what it initially seems, on the surface.

Decriminalization does not mean a free-for-all across the border.

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As much as the Trump administration would likely characterize the proposed policy as a stab at open borders, that’s not the case. The reality is that crossing the border at the moment is treated as a criminal offense, meaning that those without the appropriate documentation are automatically detained indefinitely: they are treated as a criminal.

However, decriminalizing border crossings would instead ensure that those who do attempt to cross the border are not slapped with charges of a criminal offense.

Instead, border crossings without appropriate documentation would be treated as a civil offense. In the same way that people aren’t considered a criminal for accruing a speeding fine, people crossing the border also wouldn’t be automatically treated as a criminal. This proposed approach is also more consistent with the US’ role as a signatory for the United Nation’s 1951 Refugee Convention. That is, that it’s not illegal for people to cross international borders and request asylum from another country.

Decriminalization would mean considering a new model for regulating the traffic of people across the border.

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Granted, the US still has to consider its security interests when processing requests for asylum. However, the current state of things has seen exponential overcrowding and related issues in detention centers near the border, with no indication as to whether people are seeing their requests for asylum considered at all.

Beyond the human rights problems this presents, there is also a legal quandary that must be considered in the US judicial system. Currently, the appropriate punishments for migrating across the border include both detainment and deportation – which, let’s face it, cannot be fulfilled at the same time. 

This turns into an argument around semantics: should someone be deported if they haven’t served their time in a detention center? And should someone stay in a detention center when they really should have been deported long beforehand, to prevent them from accessing the US at all? Castro’s proposal is not just about alleviating the stress being placed on US resources by detaining considerable numbers of immigrants, nor is it only about correcting human rights atrocities. It’s also about considering how immigrants are treated by the legal system.

It’s actually possible that decriminalization could reduce the number of illegal immigrants who stay indefinitely in the US.

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And yes, that’s including those who have been detained. Instead, if an immigrant was caught crossing the border without papers, they would be detained only for a brief amount of time. Once it is determined by authorities that the immigrant doesn’t raise any red flags, they would be released into the US, complete with a case management system to check in on them. The immigrant would then have to attend an immigration hearing, which would determine their status. Should it be found that the immigrant did not qualify for asylum, they then would accordingly be deported.

The positive of such a proposal is that family separation would be a thing of the past. Because border crossings wouldn’t involve criminal prosecution, there would be no reason to detain, and thus separate, families. Children would not be psychologically scarred for life simply because their parents sought a better future for them.

In fact, the US has had a longer history of decriminalized borders than criminalized ones.

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It’s worth noting that this idea of decriminalized borders isn’t really a new one. It wasn’t until 1929 that the US passed a bill that considered border crossings as a criminal misdemeanor, which meant that people could be prosecuted for entering the US without the proper authorization.

Most immigration laws before this point were focused on keeping out alcohol, gun traffickers and Asian immigrants. But, it was a white supremacist senator, Coleman Livingston Blease, who suggested fees and testing at the US-Mexico border – or, Section 1325 of Title 8 in the US Code. Are we surprised? In retrospect, no, no we are not. 

To be honest, even with this relatively short history of the criminalized border crossings, most presidents paid immigration little attention, as doing so would result in forever prosecuting misdemeanor illegal entry cases. Generally speaking, those caught crossing the border were simply informally returned.

Granted, there were some exceptions to this attitude. For example, The Great Depression saw Mexicans demonized for taking much-needed work, and deportations spiked around that time. However, it wasn’t really until the Bush administration that more decisive, ongoing action was taken on immigration. This gradual escalation in enforcing immigration policies led us to the catastrophe we’re seeing today at the borders, under the Trump administration.

So, how can you look forward to a future of decriminalized border crossings?

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Voting for 2020 presidential candidates who favor decriminalized border crossings are your best bet, if you’re keen on seeing the law changed. It’s worth listening to each candidate’s stance on immigration. For instance, aside from Castro, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren has also endorsed repealing Section 1325. On the other hand, Beto O’Rourke rejected the idea from the outset, proposing his own set of aggressive immigration plans. The key is to listen to the policy proposals – not just smooth platitudes.

While voting strategically is probably one of the most effective ways to see decriminalized border crossings, you do have other ways of continuing the conversation. Sharing articles on social media, like this one, can educate people and start worthwhile discussions around the issue. Writing, and even meeting with, your local political representatives can increase their own awareness of constituent interests. After all, it’s their job to represent you! Getting involved with activist groups that promote immigrant rights is another way that you can promote and work towards the decriminalization of border crossings.

Anyway, we’ll leave you with this: the wildest fact is that, from 1980 to 2010, the Border Patrol budget was increased 16 times. This was despite the reality that the number of attempted undocumented entries did not rise during this time. Considering the mounting numbers of detainees at the border, it stands to reason that immigration is yet another issue reduced to sound bites and narrative twisting from those politicians seeking to Make America Great Again – despite human welfare being at stake. While we can discuss all we like about when and how border crossings have been treated by the criminal system, the important thing to focus on is how we value human lives.

READ: Fear And Anxiety Grip Undocumented Community Nationwide As Walmart Arrests Escalate

Fear And Anxiety Grip Undocumented Community Nationwide As Walmart Arrests Escalate

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Fear And Anxiety Grip Undocumented Community Nationwide As Walmart Arrests Escalate

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As our country protests what is happening on the southern border–children in cages without enough food, water or even a bed to sleep on, separated from their family–fear of ICE reaches nationwide. In a Vermont town, undocumented immigrants and allies rallied outside Burlington Church on July 2nd, demanding an end to those very child internment camps. While showing solidarity for migrants at the border, they took the opportunity to speak up for the undocumented members of their community recently arrested while shopping at Walmart.

Three Vermont dairy workers were arrested within a single month. All arrests were made while grocery shopping at Walmart.

Undocumented organizer, Zully Palacios carried a sign with all three of their faces.

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Palacios herself is risking her status by speaking out, and still, she is a spokesperson for Migrant Justice. She told Vermont’s Seven Days, “As we read about what’s happening on the southern border, we must not forget what’s happening here, on the northern border.”

Federal data proves that ICE arrests have escalated under Trump’s administration.

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“These three members of our community were going about their lives, fulfilling their daily needs, shopping for food, sending money to their families in Mexico,” she told the outlet. “For that, they were detained and now find themselves behind bars.”

Ismael Mendez-Lopez, Mario Diaz-Aguilar, and Ubertoni Aguilar-Montero were stopped in the parking lot.

Credit: @TheBaxterBean / Twitter

The three went to Walmart both to buy groceries and to wire money to their families back in Mexico. Before they did that, a U.S. Border Patrol agent in an unmarked car stopped them in the parking lot. They spoke briefly and went on their way. The agent followed them. After they finished shopping at Walmart, they were arrested for not having paperwork on them. 

They’re currently being held in a New Hampshire county jail pending ICE deportation proceedings.

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A spokesperson for Border Patrol confirmed that they were arrested “based on the information from a concerned citizen.” This was the same reason for seven undocumented farmworker arrests outside that same Walmart Supercenter since February 2018. Matt Cameron, an immigration attorney, believes that these “concerned citizens” are actually informants.

Migrant workers in Vermont are struggling to feed themselves for fear of arrest.

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A newly published research study shows that each ICE raid or arrest creates an environment of fear that tangibly affects the rest of the roughly 1,500 migrant farmworkers in Vermont. They’re afraid that every trip to go get groceries might be one they never come home from.

All it takes is one racist shopper calling ICE because they saw a brown person.

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Just like how all it took was one customer complaint to report to Dunkin’ Donuts that they suspect undocumented workers. Now, Dunkin’ is suing its own franchise owners in a massive company crackdown on hiring undocumented workers.

Trump has confirmed that ICE raids will result in thousands of arrests Sunday.

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Roberto Suro, a public policy professor at the University of Southern California suspects that, while Sunday will deport .2 percent of those with deportation orders, the true attack is “purely psychological.” He told the Los Angeles Times, “This is yet one more example of how the Trump administration is trying to use fear as an instrument of immigration control. It generates a lot of fear and anxiety but not a lot of control. This has nothing to do with actual enforcement.”

The ICE raids are designed to cause fear for immigrants and to appease Trump’s right-wing base.

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After news surfaced that a raid was on its way, Trump revealed to reporters on Friday that it would be a “major operation.” “One audience is supposed to feel like something is happening,” Suro said, “and the other is supposed to be scared to death.”

Since then, immigrants across the country have called out of work, further destabilizing the community.

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Activist tip hotlines have received an influx of calls, and an advocacy group in New York has already submitted a preemptive lawsuit. The more fear he creates, the more satisfied his base will be after his failure to deliver “The Wall.”

READ: If ICE Raids Dairy Farms, It Could Make Your Gallon Of Milk $8

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