By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump falsely said Wednesday Democrats are to blame for a haunting photograph of a father and daughter who died tragically while trying to swim across the Rio Grande on their way to the U.S.
The president said Democrats must change the U.S.'s asylum laws "and then that father, who probably was this wonderful guy, with his daughter, things like that wouldn't happen."
"If they fixed the laws you wouldn't have that," Trump told reporters at the White House before departing for a G-20 gathering in Japan. "They are running through the Rio Grande. It can be a very rough river of sorts. There are times when going across the Rio Grande is very, very dangerous."
The visceral photo of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria, depicts Valeria drawn in tight to her father, arm wrapped around his neck as her head protrudes through his shirt.
The water ripples as they lay face down, lifeless, in thick brown mud.
Ramirez and his daughter did not die because of the U.S.'s asylum laws.
They decided to make the perilous journey across the Rio Grande after having grown desperate from failing to have their asylum request heard by U.S. border officials, according to reporting from La Jornada, the Mexican newspaper that first published the photograph.
The Trump administration has imposed a policy of "metering" the number of people who can claim asylum at points of entry, which has dramatically reduced the amount of asylum requests heard daily.
The photo of Ramirez and his daughter lying face down on the bank of the Rio Grande has drawn parallels to that of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian Kurdish refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after fleeing the country's ongoing conflict. Kurdi's photo drew international headlines, focusing global attention on the Syrian conflict.
In the western hemisphere many from Central America, including El Salvador, are fleeing the region's rampant gang violence and astounding levels of poverty, in hopes of receiving asylum in the U.S.
Under U.S. law asylum claims can be made anywhere in the U.S., even if an individual transited into the U.S. illegally, or stayed beyond the terms of their visa.
"As his administration refuses to follow our laws -- preventing refugees from presenting themselves for asylum at our ports of entry -- they cause families to cross between ports, ensuring greater suffering & death," Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke wrote on Twitter, referring to Trump.
"At the expense of our humanity, not to the benefit of our safety."