The Trump effect: New El Salvador president takes responsibility for father, daughter drowning in Rio Grande river

Screengrab El Salvador President Nayib Bukele

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele did not endear himself to the open border left in America when he commented on the deaths of a migrant father and his 23-month-old daughter, who drowned while trying to swim across the Rio Grande river.

A photo of the deceased father and daughter lying face down in the water, they died while trying to illegally enter the United States, was used by the media as a sign of the consequences of President Trump’s hard line stance against illegal immigration.

In an interview with the BBC, Bukele said his country is to blame for the deaths and that it was up to his government to solve the problems that force people to make the dangerous trek to America.

“People don’t flee their homes because they want to, people flee their homes because they feel they have to,” Bukele noted. “Why? Because they don’t have a job, because they are being threatened by gangs, because they don’t have basic things like water, education, health.”

“We can blame any other country but what about our blame?” he said. “What country did they flee? Did they flee the United States? They fled El Salvador, they fled our country. It is our fault.”

Bukele took office a month ago and, according to the BCC, condemned the treatment of migrants in the U.S.

At the same time, the president said El Salvador had to “focus on making our country better, making our country a place where nobody has to migrate.”

“I think migration is a right, but it should be an option, not an obligation,” he added. “And right now it’s an obligation for a lot of people.”

The BBC shared some facts about life in the Central American country:

  • In 2016, 1 in 10 Salvadoreans had no access to drinking water or sanitation service, according to the UN
  • Almost one-third of the country lives below the national poverty line
  • In 2015, El Salvador had the highest murder rate in the world but the latest official data indicates that the rate has been falling since then
  • The number of Salvadoreans apprehended at the US border has increased significantly in recent months. In the fiscal year to October 2018 the figure was 31,369. Since then, it has nearly doubled.


Deaths are common along the porous southern border, with Border Patrol reporting 3,033 migrant deaths reported between FY 2008-2016.

And while this gets little media attention because showing the consequences of our broken immigration system doesn’t advance the Democratic agenda, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is raked across the coals because he pointed out that the father was trying to skirt the overwhelmed US asylum process.

“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,” Cuccinelli said.


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