MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) — Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) spoke out today about a viral photo of a father and daughter laying face down in a river at the U.S. – Mexico border.
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Sen. Johnson opened the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on migrant exploitation Wednesday by addressing the photo from the Associated Press.
The migrant father and his 23-year-old daughter recently drowned in the Rio Grande River.
Johnson says, “I didn’t have time to have a picture blown up, but we’ve all seen it. Of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria. Now, I realize tragedies occur all over this country, all over the world. I don’t want to see another picture like that on the U.S. border. I hope that picture alone will catalyze this Congress, this Senate, this committee to do something.”
The graphic image shows the pair in shallow water with the girl still clinging to her father. The AP image follows outrage over officials returning migrant children to a facility with inhumane living conditions.
The father, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, had traveled from El Salvador with his family, hoping to claim asylum in the United States. On Sunday, Martinez’s wife said the family decided to try and cross the Rio Grande.
Martinez’s wife says her husband and daughter made it across the Rio in the first attempt. When the husband tried to come back for the wife, their daughter fell into the water. The two were then swept away by the current, unable to get out.
CBS News reports lawyers who inspected the facility migrant children are be held in and found the children hungry and without regular access to soap and showers. Many children were reportedly sleeping on concrete floors.
Sen. Johnson went on to say, in his experience, “there’s not much of a problem solving capability” in the Senate.
“Not for the big ones. Not for the big problems.”
The committee chairman continued, saying,
I want to go through a problem-solving process. That’s what we’ve been doing with all these hearings – we’ve been gathering a lot of information. We still need more information. But I want to have an open and honest and genuine discussion about the scope of the problem, the root causes of this problem and what we can do to start solving it.
We’re not going to solve this overnight, but we can make some improvement in the situation. We have to start doing something – Congress. The men and women of DHS are doing what you can do with limited resources. Congress has to act and it has to start with an honest and open discussion and conversation.”Sen. Johnson
Tuesday, just a day before Sen. Johnson and the committee met, a border official resigned amid uproar over migrant children and the conditions of the facilities they are held in.
Sen. Johnson concluded by making a call for action: “We need to start doing something. It is well past time. And that picture that all Americans woke up this morning looking at, again should be used as a catalyst for that kind of action.”