Cuccinelli blames migrant father for his own and daughter's drowning deaths

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli pointed the finger at Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, the father from El Salvador who drowned alongside his young daughter in the Rio Grande after trying to cross the border, over their deaths.  

"The reason we have tragedies like that on the border is because those folks, that father didn't want to wait to go through the asylum process in the legal fashion, so decided to cross the river and not only died but his daughter died tragically as well," Cuccinelli told CNN in an interview on Thursday. 

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"Until we fix the attractions in our asylum system, people like that father and that child are going to continue to come through a dangerous trip,” he continued. 

The story of Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, was thrust into the national spotlight this week after a photo showed their bodies lying facedown in the Rio Grande. The photo was captured on Monday by journalist Julia Le Duc in Matamoros, Mexico.

Local media reported that Ramírez had attempted to swim across the river with his young daughter and wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, out of desperation after his family was unable to request asylum in the United States.

He was reportedly able to make it safely across the river with his daughter first. But as he swam back to help his wife cross, his wife told local media that his daughter jumped into the water after him. Ávalos said her husband died trying to save their daughter after getting trapped in a current. 

The devastating photo has since prompted a wave of backlash against the Trump administration and the president’s hard-line immigration policies.