President Trump on Wednesday said he hated to see the photograph of a father and his young daughter who drowned trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border but blamed the situation on congressional Democrats.
“I hate it, and I know it could stop immediately if the Democrats change the law,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the photo. “They have to change the laws. And then that father, who probably was this wonderful guy, with his daughter — things like that wouldn’t happen.”
The grim image of the man and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down in the Rio Grande inflamed the debate in Washington over the president’s hard-line immigration policies.
According to the Mexican journalist who took the photo, the father attempted to cross the border illegally with his daughter after they were unable to present themselves to U.S. immigration authorities to request asylum. They had made the journey north from El Salvador.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) displayed the photo on the Senate floor today to chastise the president.
“President Trump, I want you to look at this photo. These are not drug dealers or vagrants or criminals. They are people simply fleeing a horrible situation in their home country for a better life,” Schumer said.
Asked later if his policies were responsible, Trump responded, “The asylum policy of the Democrats is responsible.”
“That’s like I’ve been saying. If they fixed the laws you wouldn't have that,” he said. “If we had the right laws that the Democrats are not letting us have, those people, they wouldn’t be coming up. They wouldn’t be trying.”
Democrats have pressed for policies that would make it easier for migrants from Central America to apply for asylum, while Trump has tightened existing rules.
The administration’s “metering” policy has dramatically limited the number of migrants who are allowed to request asylum each day at legal ports of entry, creating a backlog of migrants forced to wait on the Mexican side of the southern border.
Rather than wait in makeshift camps that can be overcrowded and dangerous, many have attempted to cross the border illegally — a journey that can be deadly.
The Trump administration is also seeking an agreement with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras that would require migrants to apply for asylum in the first foreign country they set foot in after leaving home.