By: Lisa M. Hayes – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
We are not going to publish the photo of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his twenty-three-month-old daughter Valaria, dead, face down in the Rio Grand River. You’ve probably already seen it. We need to remember them as more than two lifeless bodies because their lives mattered more than their deaths.
The Ramirez family fled El Salvador on April 3 and spent two months in a migrant camp in southern Mexico. Conditions in the migrant camp were deteriorating. So, they decided to take a bus to the border on Sunday to attempt to speed up their asylum case. When they arrived, the consulate was closed as it often is. In addition, they learned they were behind hundreds of other migrants in line for interviews. They determined to make the crossing illegally instead of wait – a decision that caused their deaths.
It is likely the reason they decided to attempt to cross illegally was that upon reaching the U.S. border they got vastly different reports on the asylum process than they’d been led to believe prior to leaving El Salvador. The family probably realized they would likely be separated from their not yet two-year-old daughter, who would be placed in a camp without them pending asylum hearings that might never happen. They probably realized they may never get her back.
The Ramirez family are not the only families making that decision for the very same reason. I think we all have to ask ourselves what we would do in that situation. Would you stand in line to apply for asylum knowing you might lose your children forever? Would you turn around and go back to the country you fled from because your family was at great risk there also? The Ramirez family decided to do neither of those things.
Some make it across the river and find a way to hide in plain sight, starting a new life in the U.S. Some get picked up by ICE on the US side of the border, meeting the fate they’d prayed they could avoid. Some do not make it across at all.
Oscar and his daughter didn’t. As he was being swept away by the current, he tucked his baby in his shirt and swam for their lives – lives that were cut short by a river. However, we all know the river is not to blame for it’s current.
Before attempting to cross the river Oscar sent his mother a final text message. It said: “Mama, I love you. We’re fine here, look after yourselves.”
This story is making headlines because a photographer snapped a photo that felt like a bitter slap in the face that echoed around the globe.
We should remember Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria. We should remember them alive because their lives tell a story. However, we should also remember all of the nameless faceless others who have to make the same impossible choices and are living this nightmare day in and day out.
We know who Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria were.
The question today is: Do we know who we are?
When did we become a nation that criminalizes the legal right of immigrants to seek asylum?
How did we get to a human rights crisis of epic proportions where children are stripped from the arms of their parents and housed in internment camps in deplorable conditions?
More importantly, how did we end up a nation where approximately half of our citizenry thinks that’s ok?
Of course, we can blame Trump. It’s easy to blame those people – the other people – the Trump people. However, they will be who they will be. It’s the rest of us who need to do some soul searching.
We cannot become so numb to the horror was what’s happening that we think social media shares are action enough. We cannot succumb to the crisis fatigue to the point that we freeze in the face of the unthinkable – and make no mistake, we are right there, at the unthinkable.
Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez died, clutching his daughter, so close to freedom that their bodies washed up on the soil they spent months trying to reach. Their family is just one of the thousands of families that are caught in the decay of our moral compass, fighting for their lives in our system of injustice.
The photo was jarring. It was shocking. It was real. Seeing it is profoundly uncomfortable. I’d like to say we cannot turn away, except we can and we wouldn’t be the first to do so.
We’ve all wondered. History has never quit asking the question. How did the people of Germany stand by and let it happen? Why didn’t the stop the Nazis?
It’s not hard for me to imagine that now. It’s not hard for me to imagine how uncomfortable it was for them to watch the jews get loaded onto trains and taken away. It probably made them uneasy. So, they turned away and history tells their stories because they sat idly by, feeling uncomfortable, maybe even afraid, and did nothing.
We are feeling something because we are humans wired for compassion. We didn’t put them there. However, we are the only ones who can save them.
There are no words more appropriate than those of Martin Luther King Jr.
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
More by Lisa:
Confluence Daily is the one place where everything comes together. The one-stop for daily news for women.