THERE was no lamp lifted, there was no golden door.

There was nothing for little Angie Valeria but to cling to her father, an arm around daddy’s neck and tucked inside his t-shirt, as the waters of the Rio Grande filled her lungs.

A month shy of two years old, Valeria and her father, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez, were found face down in shallow water on the shore near the Mexican town of Matamoros where an international bridge links two North American countries.

The Martinez family, with Mr Martinez’s 21-year-old wife Tania Vanessa Ávalos, were fleeing El Salvador in an attempt to reach America and create a better life.

READ MORE: Valeria, the toddler behind the picture that shocked the world

They hoped, according to Mr Martinez’s distraught mother Rosa, to save up for a house. What an ambition to die for. Not excessive riches, not outrageous dreams. Just property and safety.

Who would grudge them that?

The American president would, for a start. Donald Trump, famed for his intellectual contortions, said Mr Martinez “probably was this wonderful guy.” A wonderful guy.

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It’s certainly a twist from his previous rhetoric of Central American migrants as “animals” who are “infesting our country.”

Perhaps Mr Martinez is promoted to “wonderful” because he is not Mexican. Of the Mexicans, Trump’s take was that they have “lots of problems” they are bringing to America: “They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists.”

READ MORE: Trump and Democrats blame each other for death of little Valeria and her dad

Quite a fatal misreading of the Statue of Liberty's “homeless, tempest-tost” from the Mexicans there. Or rather, a fatal misreading of the migrant situation from Trump.

When asked about the devastating image of a young father and his wee daughter, Trump was quick to point the finger at the Democrats who, he outrageously claimed, are blocking a change in the law that could prevent deaths such as those of Valeria and Oscar.

“I hate it,” he said of the image. “I know it could stop immediately if the Democrats changed the law. They have to change the laws.

“They want to have open borders, and open borders mean crime. And open borders mean people drowning in the rivers, and it’s a very dangerous thing.”

Mr Martinez, his wife and daughter waited for two months in a camp at the Mexican border for their papers to be processed. He hoped to reach America and seek asylum. He followed the correct procedures.

But these procedures failed him, as they fail all the families facing an interminable and unlimited wait in camps. The family could no longer endure it, the international bridge was closed and so they decided the Rio Grande looked swimmable.

The image of the father and daughter, captured by local journalist Julia Le Duc, was shared on the front page of Ms Le Duc’s newspaper, La Jornada.

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Central Americans make their way to America

The New York Times then ran it on its front page, a bold decision shining a spotlight on the brutal impact of the region’s migration crisis and the plight of people fleeing corruption, violence and poverty.

The Martinez family was said to be living on around $10 a day in a community run by gangs in a country with the highest murder rate in the world, a murder rate not alleviated by the US’s war on drugs, a policy that contributes to the unliveable conditions migrants try to flee.

The image has done its job: it has been discussed by US politicians, it has made headlines globally and it has again sparked debate about migration.

READ MORE: Two Syrians jailed over death of migrant boy Alan Kurdi

We have been here before, of course. On September 2, 2015, Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as he and his family set off on a long journey to seek asylum in Canada, their boat capsizing just minutes off the coast of Turkey.

A photograph of the dead two-year-old on a beach, face down in the sand, caused international condemnation and concern, causing donations to refugee and migrant charities to surge.

The publishing of the photograph was designed to spark empathy, to show the real cost of the refugee and migration crisis. By forcing us to think of our own children, it forced us to care.

Critics said it was unethical and dehumanising to make Alan a symbol, but that dehumanising of one victim humanised an entire crisis, a sort of ethical exploitation.

It worked as planned on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who cancelled a photo opportunity that day to instead speak about the photograph.“Look,” he said, “I think our reaction to that, you know the first thing that crossed our mind was remembering our son Ben at that age, running around like that”.

The event had an immediate impact on Canadian immigration policies; the country promised to resettle 25,000 refugees. Alan’s death seemed to shift the political discourse on refugees - the right-leaning media and politicians began speaking with compassion and became conciliatory.

In Europe, plans were developed for a humanitarian corridor from northern Greece to southern Bavaria while Germany agreed to accept thousands of refugees coming through Hungary.

But how short-lived our sense of shame can be - the humanitarian corridor shut less than a year later.

Looking at some of the comments online about Mr Martinez, it seems compassion and understanding has dwindled too.

A common theme is: “I am a father of daughters and I would never put my daughter in danger.” Ah, you’re the better kind of father, are you?

The kind of father who would not want to improve the life chances of his daughter, who would prefer her to live in fear of drug gangs, to live in poverty?

Until you are desperate, you really don’t know what sort of father you are.

It is this lack of compassion that allows for the broader political landscape. In America children are being detained in camps where doctors have described conditions as comparable to "torture facilities.” Senator Elizabeth Warren, who spent the final hours before the Democrats primary debate in Miami at a camp - allowed only to look through a fence - described seeing children “marched like little soldiers.”

Glasgow Times: Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Restrictive immigration policies existed in America before Trump but his administration’s policies are cruel and oppressive - and they force people into extreme action. The Martinez family is not unique. Last year there were 283 deaths along the 2000-mile US-Mexico border.

On both sides of the Atlantic anti-immigration rhetoric is allowed to flourish with empathy and welcome extended to the “right” sort of migrants - the rest are a threat. Just as Donald Trump this week praised Australia's hard line immigration policies, Boris Johnson has promised to deliver an Australian-style points-based immigration system if he becomes prime minister. "We must be much more open to high-skilled immigration such as scientists," he said, "But [take] control over the number of unskilled immigrants."

The Windrush generation became national treasures and the government pledged to keep them here. All except those who had committed serious offences: they were threatened with deportation by Sajid Javid, creating a two tier immigration policy when the right response is that you are either a citizen or you are not.

We cannot claim innocence of hostile immigration policies when we have seen the consequences with our own eyes.

Will outrage and anguish galvanise change? It should and it must. We cannot continue to require images of dead children as the impetus to do the morally right thing.