The truth behind the viral photo that divided America

Close to 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the US border since the start of the Trump administration's new “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.


                            The truth behind the viral photo that divided America

Several people experienced a state of emotional overwhelm on seeing the image of a two-year-old Honduran child standing next to her mother and crying due to separation anxiety while they were being searched and detained at the Texas border. 

According to Getty photojournalist John Moore, who took the picture, the family had come in from Mexico by rafting across Rio Grande river. They were stopped by the border patrol agents in McAllen, Texas, last Tuesday and were "sent to a processing center for possible separation."

New York-based Moore clicked the images while he was riding along with Customs and Border Protection agents, reported The Evening Standard.

Central American asylum seekers, including a Honduran girl, 2, and her mother, are taken into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Central American asylum seekers, including a Honduran girl, 2, and her mother, are taken into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Moments later, a US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson, was asked about the whereabouts of the child and her mother after the photo went viral, and if they were going to be separated according to the border policy. To which he replied, "We're still researching and will get back to you."

"I would tell you," the spokesperson said, "that being an infant, she will not be separated from her mother unless there is the criminal or immigration history of an adult in the family unit, evidence of abuse that would indicate that the child’s safety is at risk, questionable familial relationships (fraud), [or] insufficient detention space to accommodate a family unit where both parents are present."

The said photo was widely shared across social media right after New York Daily News decided to make it their front page cover for Saturday.

"Callous. Soulless. Craven. Trump," the newspaper declared, unsurprisingly.



Moore explained that the child was held as her mother was body searched and that is the moment when the little girl began to cry.

“While it’s not uncommon for toddlers to feel separation anxiety, this would have been stressful for any child. I took only a few photographs and was almost overcome with emotion myself," he said.

"Then very quickly, they were in the van and I stopped to take a few deep breath,” he added.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Many social media users shared their shock and grief over the image that spread like wildfire.

Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents after President Trump decided to go hard with a "zero tolerance" immigration policy within a six week span, prosecuting every adult found to be illegally entering the United States.

Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018, near McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Central American asylum seekers wait as U.S. Border Patrol agents take them into custody on June 12, 2018, near McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

According to the new "zero tolerance policy", illegal immigrants who have been referred to Homeland Security for breaching the border have their children snatched from them until their pending cases are arbitrated. These cases can take months and in some cases, even years to conclude.

Moore said, "I doubt many of these families knew about the Trump administration’s recent policy on separating parents from children at the border.”

"Most of these families were scared, to various degrees," added Moore. "I doubt any of them had ever done anything like this before — flee their home countries with their children, traveling thousands of miles through dangerous conditions to seek political asylum in the United States, many arriving in the dead of night."

Talking abut the moment he tried to soothe a terrified 10-year-old boy with special needs with some photos from his camera, he said, “He was terrified. To try and calm him, I showed him some pictures of the river, which I displayed on the back of my camera. I then told him something that was natural to say in the moment but that I immediately regretted.

"'No te preocupas, todo va a estar bien,' I said.

"I told him not to worry, everything will be alright," Moore said. "I really wish I hadn't said that, because I'm not sure it's true."

Central American asylum seekers are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents on June 12, 2018, near McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Central American asylum seekers are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents on June 12, 2018, near McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The photographer said that he "found it difficult" to see the families detained in such a manner.

“I could see on their faces that they had no idea what was about to happen,” he said.

On June 12, Moore captured in his photographs border agents chasing illegals seeking asylum through sugar cane fields after they crossed the border from Mexico.

First Lady Melania Trump's spokeswoman said that she "hates to see children separated from their families" immediately after the release of the photographs.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama joined Laura Bush, who condemned the zero-tolerance border policy on Twitter, calling it "cruel" and "immoral."

That being said, Jeff Sessions, attorney general of the United States, stood by the policy, even citing a bible verse in its defense at one point.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said in a speech to Indiana police officers.

“Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves,” he added. “Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”