Ledy Perez clenched her hand, covering her face as she wept, an arm clutching her small 6-year-old son, who glared defiantly at the Mexican National Guard soldier blocking them from crossing into the United States.
The plight of this mother and son who had traveled some 1,500 miles (2,410 km) from their home country of Guatemala to the border city of Ciudad Juarez, only to be stopped mere feet from the United States, was captured by Reuters photographer Jose Luis Gonzalez as twilight approached on Monday (July 22). One of several images Reuters published of the scene, it has thrown into the spotlight the role Mexico's militarized National Guard police force is playing in containing migration, mostly from Central America. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador created the National Guard to bring down record homicide rates, but almost a third of its members are now assigned to patrolling the border to placate President Donald Trump's demands of stemming the flow of U.S.-bound migrants.
The soldier displayed no overt aggression during the nine-minute encounter with Perez and her son. Still, the power dynamics apparent in the image resonated with criticism of the treatment migrants are receiving during the clampdown by Mexico. Lopez Obrador's spokesman, Jesus Ramirez, said the image was an example of the National Guard doing its job of looking after public security. He said the soldier did not impede Perez from crossing but advised her of the dangers of doing so.