The Story Behind the Viral Photo of a Crying Child at the Border

Anyone who has been following news in the United States recently has probably heard about the turmoil surrounding the separation of undocumented immigrant children from their parents at the southern border of the country. One photographer documented the human face of this policy with a viral photo of a crying toddler at the border.

CNN Reporter Ana Cabrera interviewed Getty Images Photographer John Moore about his image. Moore was in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas photographing Border Patrol activities as people were crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico at night. He spoke with the mother of the two-year-old child in the image who said they were asylum seekers from Honduras who had been traveling for a month. Federal agents asked the mother to put down her child so they could body search her. They were later transported to a U.S. Customer and Border Protection processing center.

Moore says that the series of photographs he captured that night were difficult for him to take "as a journalist, as a human being, and especially as a father" as he knew that the children would soon be separated from their parents into separate detention centers. For this particular image, he said he only had a matter of seconds to move into position and get down on a knee to be at the child's level before taking the picture. The mother and child were put into a van and driven off soon after, presumably to a detention center for processing.

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Then according to the photographer this was not a photo of a child that was separated from its mother.This photo was taken as they crossed the boarder and he did not see them being separated.

user-189304's picture

I trust that you realise that your assertion that such policies started with the previous administration in no way alter the morality of the situation?

Your logical construction is the equivalent of this: it's OK for me to murder someone, because that person murdered someone.

Anonymous's picture

Not to mention that it’s simply inaccurate.

user-189304's picture

I figured you covered that with your comment above mine. That aside, the previous administration was far from clean or perfect, and so I prefer not to try and claim that one side of politics has some sort of moral superiority. All politics is dirty and immoral.

Anonymous's picture

Absolutely. There has been major issues (moral and legal) regarding immigration for decades, regardless of political sides. That this is being politicized further is awful.

user-156929's picture

All politics? What does that mean? Only people can be dirty or immoral and to suggest all politicians are, regardless of the party, is just wrong.

user-189304's picture

It means that the political construct operates within a construct of economics and subordinate to its dictates. It further means that politics is strictly subject to the operating conditions of engineered consent.

I meant what I said. The fact you do not understand does not make me wrong.

user-156929's picture

I'm merely pointing out a fallacy in your logic.
"Just because you say it with conviction, don't mean shit to me!" ~48 Hours
;-)

user-189304's picture

You wouldn't recognise logic if it raped you.

I'll take a stab in the dark and suggest you've never studied Chomsky or Pettit.

user-156929's picture

Okay.

edit: Nope. Never even heard of them. After a cursory search, I assume they're political philosophers. I prefer philosophers like de Montaigne, Socrates and Twain.

user-156929's picture

The morality of the situation is, parents are placing their children in this situation. The DOJ is helpless to act otherwise unless and until Congress changes the law. Of course they can choose to ignore laws they don't like but that's a really bad idea.

user-189304's picture

You just assumed a bunch of predicates to claim a moral conclusion, but that conclusion being synonymous with a symptomatic action. Garbage like this is why I'm increasingly intolerant on social media.

user-156929's picture

You just used a bunch of mumbo jumbo that doesn't mean anything in an effort to BS your way through an argument you can't counter. I have no tolerance for BS. Make a real case and I would love to debate you on its merit.

user-189304's picture

The fact you do not understand does not invalidate what I said. Your "rebuttal" is in the same class as 'I don't understand science therefore it's wrong'.

The funny thing is that what I said was pretty straightforward.

user-156929's picture

Now you're just embarrassing yourself. Your argument amounts to, 'I'm right because I'm right and you're ignorant if you can't see that.' smh

user-189304's picture

If you didn't describe basic English as "mumbo jumbo" your objection may have more merit.

user-156929's picture

I wasn't describing basic English as mumbo jumbo. That was my opinion of your use of it and its relevancy to the subject at hand. We should probably stop now since you're clearly more intelligent than me by half. :-)

Tony Curtis's picture

I 100% agree with you.

Rex Larsen's picture

Thanks a lot, Aneesh, and Fstoppers for this post and video clip.I encourage more content like this. Considering the current administration, and behavior of ICE, I'm surprised by the access John Moore received.

Rex Larsen's picture

As usual, Allen has his facts correct. The previous administration did not separate children from their families and jail and prosecute asylum seekers. Imagine if a family managed to escape North Korea only to be arrested, jailed and have their young children taken away by American officials.
Posts like the John Moore interview are a real boost to Fstoppers in my opinion.

user-156929's picture

You really think the situation with North Korea is comparable? I'm not talking about the living conditions, which vary from country to country, but the numbers involved and history of disingenuous claims of asylum seekers. In the majority of such cases from Central and South America, the individuals have been released with the promise to show up for a court date to determine the validity of their case but never show up. That doesn't speak well for their intentions. Furthermore, sending children by themselves calls their motivation into question. Again, that's not all cases but it harms the credibility of those individuals truly in need of asylum which is further harmed by people attempting to lump them all together.

David Pavlich's picture

As soon as I saw this article, I knew that it would turn political in an instant. I wish, for F-stoppers' sake that it wouldn't have been published. Not because of its content, but because this is a PHOTOGRAPHY FORUM. We are bombarded with this crap from enough sources already. Why does it have to invade a place that used to be fun to log onto. Go to the MSNBC web page or FOX News. You can have your pi$$ing matches there. Pathetic.

Anonymous's picture

Photojournalism involves both politics and photography. Photographs like this are meant to invoke political and ethical reactions. It’s been well established like this for over a century, and is an important and meaningful branch of photography.

It's also an easy excuse for injecting political views into a non-political forum. We have no idea whether this girl was separated from her mother or why she is crying. Do facts matter when using photographs to invoke political and ethical reactions? Or is it enough to say that this girl could have been separated, therefore this photograph can be the Tiananmen Square photo of the legal immigration debate?

Anonymous's picture

Fair point, and a good question. You asked below “how much has that photojournalism involved photos that were exploited for a cause?” And I’d argue it happens frequently. You give the example of the polar bear. There’s also the civil rights photo of a black man being attacked by dogs, which someone recently pointed out was actually of the police officer trying to stop the dog from attacking him. Going back to the Civil War, bodies on battlefields were propped up on battlefields to take more compelling images. And the raising the flag on Iwo Jima image was staged.

So there’s a long history of images that EVOKE a certain event or mindset, but don’t actually show the particular facts they proport to. The question is: is it enough to evoke things that are actually happening, or does one only strive for objective truth (even when that’s impossible and too complicated to showcase with a single image)? I don’t have an answer, but I’m glad you asked it.

Rex Larsen's picture

Mr. Pavlich, please don't discourage Fstoppers from content about real pictures. I've had my fill of composits and heavily retouched images.

David Pavlich's picture

Mr. Larsen, If you read my post thoroughly it had nothing to do with the content of the article and everything to do with turning a rather nice photography forum into a political mud wrestling match. In our hyper sensitive state of affairs, it takes little to turn otherwise decent people into raving lunatics.

If I knew that this sort of article wouldn't become a trip wire for those that just can't keep their political spleen letting to themselves, then I'm all for it.

But being intellectually honest, you know that's not the case. There's hundreds of sites one can haunt and be welcomed with open arms to spew their political leanings. I just wish it hadn't happened here.

user-156929's picture

It would be okay if people could 1. debate the situation honestly and dispassionately and/or 2. discuss how the photograph supports the photographer's POV, regardless what that is. Personally, even assuming a position I don't hold, I think it's rather weak. There's no context. to establish causation. Of course, as he said, the photographer didn't really have time to do more than take a quick shot.

Allen Butler's picture

Indeed. It's simply astonishing that Trump would actually enforce the law. Breaking the law ALWAYS has tragic consequences.

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