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Family of girl and dad who drowned trying to reach U.S.: "He always protected her"

Tragic photo underscores plight of migrants
Tragic photo shows migrant father, child who died trying to cross the Rio Grande 02:01

The image of a migrant dad and his young daughter who drowned attempting to reach the United States has sparked outrage across the country. Those close to Oscar Alberto Martinez confirm his family was headed to Irving, Texas, CBS DFW reports.

ADDITION Mexico US Border Migrant Deaths
The bodies of Oscar Alberto Martinez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter  Julia Le Duc / AP

Martinez wanted to go there to be with family and find work. "Seeing that image… he always protected her," Rosa Ramirez, Martinez' mother, said.

Ramirez said her son left El Salvador trying to give his almost 2-year-old daughter a better life in United States.

The photo of the two face down in the Rio Grande documents the tragic end of their attempt to reach Irving. In their final moments, Martinez' daughter's arm was wrapped around her father's neck.

"I'm feeling so many different things now," Ramirez said. "You never let go. You can tell he was trying to protect her."

Martinez' family said he spent weeks trying to seek asylum at the U.S. Consulate in Mexico, but couldn't get anyone to talk to him. His father said he was there about two or three months.

Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria were trying to cross into the U.S. after fleeing from El Salvador. CBS DFW

Martinez and his family then decided to attempt to cross the border illegally.

"They never made it and now instead of a reunion they'll be attending two funerals," Domingo Garcia, President of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said.

Garcia is in communication with those close to Martinez' family in Irving.

"This just happened … and you can imagine the trials and tribulations of what this family is going through and the fear that something could happen of them also here in Irving," Garcia said.

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