MEXICO CITY — The man and his 23-month-old daughter lay face down in shallow water along the bank of the Rio Grande, his black shirt hiked up with the girl’s head tucked inside. Her arm was draped around his neck, suggesting she clung to him in her final moments.
The searing photograph of the sad discovery on Monday, captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada, highlights the perils of the latest migration crisis involving mostly Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty and hoping for asylum in the United States.
From the scorching Sonora desert to the Rio Grande, the US-Mexico border has long been a perilous journey for those who cross it illegally between ports of entry.
Two babies, a toddler, and a woman were found dead on Sunday, overcome by the sweltering heat. Elsewhere three children and an adult from Honduras died in April after their raft capsized on the Rio Grande, and a 6-year-old from India was found dead earlier this month in Arizona, where temperatures routinely soar well above 100 degrees.
‘‘Very regrettable that this would happen,’’ Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday in response to a question about the photograph. ‘‘We have always denounced that as there is more rejection in the United States, there are people who lose their lives in the desert or crossing’’ the river.
According to Le Duc’s reporting for La Jornada, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, frustrated because family members from El Salvador were unable to present themselves to US authorities and request asylum, swam across the river with his daughter, Valeria.
He set her on the US bank of the river and started back for his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the water. Martínez returned and was able to grab Valeria, but the current swept them both away. The account was based on remarks by Ávalos to police at the scene.
Their bodies were discovered Monday morning on the bank of the river near Matamoros, Mexico, across from Brownsville, Texas, and several hundred yards from where they had tried to cross, just a half-mile from an international bridge.
The photo recalls the 2015 image of a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean near Turkey, though it remains to be seen whether it may have the same impact in focusing international attention on migration to the United States.
US policy has drastically reduced the number of migrants who are allowed to request asylum, down from dozens per day previously to sometimes just a handful at some ports of entry.