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Photographer shares story behind powerful photo of 2-year-old girl at border

Getty Images photographer John Moore captured the photo during a ride-along with U.S. Border Patrol agents.
by Eun Kyung Kim / / Source: TODAY

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The disturbing image of a 2-year-old Honduran girl crying as U.S. Border Patrol agents search her mother has come to represent the heartbreak being experienced by illegal immigrants separated from their children.

The Getty Images photographer who snapped the now-viral photo has since described the story behind that particular picture, in which a toddler in a bright pink blouse wails as she looks up at adults beside her.

“As the father myself, this photograph was especially difficult for me to take," John Moore wrote on Instagram. "It is one from a series yesterday while i was on a ride-along with the Border Patrol in Texas’ Río Grande."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer has taken hundreds of photos illustrating the struggles of illegal immigrants over the past decade. But he said little prepared him for the suffering he repeatedly witnessed as children were forcefully separated from their parents while federal agents begin to weigh their case.

“The Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy for undocumented immigrants calls for the separation of parents and children while their cases for political asylum are adjudicated, a process that can take months — or years,” Moore wrote.

Moore said most of the immigrants he photographed during the ride-along were asylum seekers from Central America, fleeing their home country because of violence there.

"Most of these families were scared, to various degrees," Moore told Getty’s online site, Foto. "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."

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions put harsher restrictions on rules related to U.S. acceptance of immigrants when he said that fear of domestic abuse or gang violence is not an acceptable basis for granting asylum.

First lady Melania Trump uncharacteristically waded into the debate through a rare statement issued Sunday by her spokeswoman.

“Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform," the statement said. "She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Former first lady Laura Bush also weighed in with her views. In a Washington Post opinion piece, the wife of former President George W. Bush noted the couple live in the border state of Texas.

“I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” she wrote.

Attorney General Sessions announced in May the Trump Administration's intent to separate parents and children who have illegally entered the United States through the southwest border.

Outrage has grown as traumatic stories of families being torn apart continue to be shared over the weeks. The tragedies have prompted parents across the country are looking for ways to help the children involved. Several ways to help child immigrants can be found here.

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