Border Patrol agent speaks out about viral image of crying Honduran girl

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Photographer Tells Story Behind Image of Crying Toddler at Texas-Mexico Border

A Border Patrol agent is speaking out after images of him patting down a Honduran migrant at the U.S.-Mexico border as her daughter cried at her feet last week fueled public sentiment against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

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Border Patrol Agent Carlos Ruiz told CBS News that the image might be considered misleading.

“We asked (the mother) to set the kid down in front of her … so we can properly search the mother,” he told the news network. “The kid immediately started crying as she set her down. I personally went up to the mother and asked her, ‘Are you doing OK? Is the kid OK?’ and she said, “Yes. She’s tired and thirsty. It’s 11 o’clock at night.’”

John Moore/Getty Images
A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation.
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Behind the viral photo of toddler crying at the US border

John Moore/Getty Images
A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation.

The image, taken June 12 by Getty Images photographer John Moore, gained traction as an example of the emotional toll of the Trump administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which led officials to separate thousands of migrant children from their parents.

>> Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy: 4 things to know

The photo spurred a California couple to start a fundraiser that has since raised millions of dollars to help migrants detained on suspicion of illegally crossing the border. The crying girl’s image will appear on the cover of the July 2 issue of Time magazine.

>> Couple raises more than $4.7 million to help reunite migrant children, parents

Moore told NPR and The Washington Post that the moment he captured was brief.

“I took a knee and had very few frames of that moment before it was over,” Moore told NPR. “I knew at that moment that this point in their journey, which was very emotional for me to see them being detained, for them was just part of a very, very long journey.”

>> Time cover: Photo of little girl crying at border, Trump illustrates immigration debate

Moore said he was not sure what happened to the pair after he photographed them, but that he feared they would be separated. The girl’s father, Denis Valera, told Reuters he has since learned that the girl and her mother, Sandra Sanchez, have been detained together in McAllen, Texas.

Sanchez has applied for asylum, Valera said.

He told Reuters that he was pleased his daughter had “become a symbol” of issues surrounding the family separation policy, but he said he fears for the family’s safety. He said Sanchez left Puerto Cortes without telling him or their three other children. Sanchez has family in the United States and likely left in search of better economic opportunities, he said.

>> Behind the viral photo of toddler crying at the US border

“If they are deported, that is OK as long as they do not leave the child without her mother,” Valera told Reuters. “I am waiting to see what happens with them.”

The Trump administration in April directed prosecutors to pursue cases against all people suspected of crossing the border illegally as part of a “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy. Parents were separated from their children as they faced prosecution.

>> Trump signs executive order ending migrant family separations

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Trump ended the policy Wednesday with an executive order after unsuccessfully calling on Congress to stop the separations through legislation. 

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