Award-winning Getty Images photographer John Moore said he knew he had managed to capture the emotional impact of the Trump administration’s immigration policy just moments after photographing a young Honduran girl crying at her mother’s feet last week.
The image appeared on television sets, computer screens and newspaper front pages around the globe. The photo spurred a California couple to start a fundraiser that has since raised millions of dollars to help migrants detained on suspicion of illegally crossing the border. It spurred public outrage over the immigration policy that led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Moore told The Washington Post that he noticed the girl when her mother stopped to breastfeed her in the middle of the road on June 12. She and dozens of other migrants, nearly all women and children, were stopped by the Border Patrol agents just after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas.
“There was no place for privacy,” Moore told the Post. “(The mother) said they’d been on the road for a month, and they were from Honduras. I can only imagine what dangers she’d passed through, alone with the girl.”
The woman gave Moore permission to follow her and her 2-year-old daughter as Border Patrol agents processed them, the Post reported. It was after agents confiscated their personal items, when the girl’s mother put her on the ground to allow an agent to search her, that the girl started to wail.
The moment passed quickly.
“I took a knee and had very few frames of that moment before it was over,” Moore told NPR. “And I knew at that moment that this point in their journey, which was very emotional for me to see them being detained, for them was just part of a very, very long journey.”
Moore told the Post that the feeling he had after photographing the girl was similar to emotions he felt while covering war zones and Ebola wards abroad.
"Ever since I took those pictures, I think about that moment often. And it's emotional for me every time," he told NPR. “I do not know what happened to them. I would very much like to know.”
The Trump administration in April directed prosecutors to pursue cases against all people suspected of crossing the border illegally as part of a “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy. Parents have been separated from their children as they face prosecution. Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
According to CNN, a spokesman later told them that the girl and mother in the viral photo were not separated.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order ending his administration’s policy of separating children from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border amid global criticism of the practice.