Certainly, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez must have known that his perilous journey to America would be in vain.
Hadn't he heard even before leaving El Salvador in April that people like him and his family were not welcome here? Why would he sacrifice so much just to end up facedown in the murky waters of the Rio Grande River on the Mexico border with his lifeless 23-month-old daughter's arm draped around his neck?
How could he not have known that granting U.S. asylum to people fleeing danger in Central America is a pipe dream? Did he think that his story of hardship and poverty would somehow elicit more sympathy than those of thousands of weary migrants who had been turned away at the U.S. border before him?
Didn't he realize that the idea of his daughter growing up in a country flush with opportunity was a fairy tale no more realistic than a lonely princess who kisses a frog and turns him into a handsome prince?
Did he think the stories about young children being abused and neglected at detention centers run by the U.S. government were a scare tactic designed to convince foreigners that they would be better off at home?
It is likely that 25-year-old Martinez understood it well. But he came anyway, with his wife, Tania, and daughter, Valeria, because he had no other choice. The disturbing photograph of him floating in the river with his baby's body tenderly nestled underneath his T-shirt tells us so.
Still, some of us lucky enough to have been born in a country where we are taught that even what seems impossible is attainable if we work hard enough might find it difficult to fathom the hopelessness that led Martinez to this river.
We might not entirely understand the desperation of a father willing to risk his family's life for a chance to live the American Dream -- an elusive promise that many Americans know firsthand is a lie. We question why he had to come here.
Maybe some have not heard about how gangs run rampant in El Salvador, targeting women and children, simply because they are the most vulnerable. Maybe some have not read about the open confrontations that occur between criminal gangs and the El Salvadoran government. Perhaps some have not paid attention to the tales of rape, torture, executions and extortion at the hands of violent gangs that have taken over large swaths of his country.
It is likely that Martinez weighed his options carefully and decided that coming to America, even with its hard-line asylum policies, was better than staying in El Salvador. So he quit his job and traveled 1,000 miles, ending up in the river.
From his vantage point in Matamoros, Mexico, the Rio Grande may not have seemed so menacing. Its water was dirty. Trash and beer bottles were floating about, but Martinez likely had not seen the fury of a mighty current like the one that rose up on Sunday and swept him and Valeria away.
A month earlier, the river claimed the lives of four migrants, including a 10-month old baby and two other children. Since October, more than 400 migrants, many of them children, have been rescued from the treacherous river. And there are many others who, if the river did not take them, the scorching heat in the valley did.
After waiting two months to apply for asylum, Martinez and his wife had grown desperate, she told news organizations. They were so close to their dream that swimming to the riverbank on the other side of the Rio Grande must have seemed inevitable.
On Sunday, Martinez attempted to swim across with Valeria on his back, tucked under his shirt. His wife followed on the back of a family friend. At some point, she turned back, but Martinez kept going, only to be swept away with his daughter shortly before reaching the banks of Brownsville, Texas, according to the New York Times.
The picture of the two of them, taken by a news photographer after their bodies were discovered downstream the following day, has been held up as a symbol of the great lengths to which migrants will go to live in America. But it also is a reminder of how determined the U.S. government is to keep them out.
Many Americans are saddened and angered that such a tragedy could occur, yet again, on our watch. We have vowed to do something -- anything -- to make it stop.
This is not who we are as a nation, we insist. But, regardless of what we say, this is the nation we have become. The proof is in the picture.