The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has seen the separation of thousands of parents from their children. Getty Images photographer John Moore documented what this policy looks like in a single photo that quickly became viral. CNN reporter Ana Cabrera interviewed Moore about his gut-wrenching photo of a crying toddler. In this video, he shares the story of what was going on that night and how he documented it.
Moore was in Texas’ Río Grande Valley on a ride-along with Border Patrol, photographing their activities. When anyone crossed to the U.S. side of the border, Border Patrol would gather them all together and take their names and IDs. Moore admits that seeing the children in the crowd was particularly emotional for him, considering that he is a father himself. For the same reason, this photo was especially difficult for him to take.
The photographer had the opportunity to speak to the girl’s mother very briefly. She told him that they had come from Honduras and had been travelling through Mexico for a month. At the point when they reached Mexican border, they had already been through a lot. The mother was among the last people to be body-searched before entering the van that would take her to the processing room. An officer asked her to put down her child, she burst into tears, and this is when Moore took the photo.
He explains that it’s not uncommon for toddlers to experience separation anxiety and start crying when a parent puts them down. But in a situation like this, it takes on an entirely different context and gives a new meaning to the little girl’s tears.
Moore told the reporter that he has covered situations like this multiple times. At the time they cross the border, these parents don’t know that they will be separated from their children. But having seen these situations before, the photographer knew it. Because of this, he admits that taking these photos was always difficult for him “as a journalist, as a human being, and especially as a father.”
After taking this photo, the mother and her daughter were put into a van and driven away. Moore explains that the separation process happens far from cameras, and this is as close as you can get to this horrible situation as a journalist. He felt overwhelmed with emotions, as he tells the reporter. Sadly, he couldn’t do anything, but the photo remains to testify to the horrible treatment these parents and children go through.