Pope Francis expressed his “immense sadness” upon seeing the image of the migrant father and child who drowned in their attempt to cross the Rio Grande, a Vatican spokesman said Wednesday.

“The Pope is profoundly saddened by their deaths, and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery,” Holy See Press Office interim director Alessandro Gissoti said June 26.

The graphic image of the bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, floating along the Rio Grande riverbank circulated across the world after they were discovered on June 24.

Martinez and his daughter died while attempting to swim across the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border after they were unable to make an official request to U.S. authorities for asylum from El Salvador, the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, reported.

At least 283 migrants died while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border last year, according to U.S. border patrol.

President Donald Trump announced June 22 that he would delay scheduled immigration raids by two-weeks to allow Congress to modify U.S. asylum law.

The House of Representatives passed a bill June 4 that would provide a citizenship path for some brought to the U.S. illegally as children, as well as for qualified holders of Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure.

The bill, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, would grant qualifying childhood arrivals 10 years of legal residence, after which they could receive permanent legal residence with two years of higher education or military service, or three years of employment. Those with TPS or DED could apply for lawful permanent residence if they have been in the country for at least three years and have passed background checks. After five years of lawful permanent residence, they would apply for citizenship.

Earlier this month, Mexico agreed to take measures to reduce the number of migrants to the US, in order to avoid the imposition of tariffs.

Some 6,000 National Guard troops will be assigned to Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, and some asylum seekers in the US will be sent to Mexico to wait while their claims are processed.

Read more at Catholic News Agency 

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