Indie roots duo Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno's powerful and haunting "Sanctuary Song" documents the tragic 2019 death of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez, 25, and his daughter Valeria, who drowned in the Rio Grande river along the US/Mexico border while while trying to cross from Mexico into Texas.
"What Oscar and Valeria found at the end of a long journey was the other side of the American system: strict and inhumane border control policies and actions that blatantly favor the death of migrants over their pursuit of a life in the US," Calcagno said in a statement.
"Sanctuary Song" was written by songwriter Richard Fortmann, who invited Leva and Calcagno to record their own version as part of the Sanctuary Song Project.
"The first thing that hit us about 'Sanctuary Song' was the lyrics," Calcagno continued. "The brutality of this story and the senselessness of a militarized border. Richard's melody is intentionally simple, it's Woody Guthrie-esque, story-first songwriting. Working with Jeff Claus and Judy Hyman of The Horseflies to help us parse through what we had created and advise us on where to go, our challenge was to produce a version that accompanied the story sonically and felt engaging and present."
Watch the video for Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno's rendition of "Sanctuary Song" below.
"It was unimaginable cruelty that led to the senseless deaths of Oscar and Valeria," Fortmann says. "And in the face of that cruelty, people like the volunteer staff at Annunciation House keep working."
The goal of the Sanctuary Song Project is to advocate for immigrant rights and compassion for all humans, no matter their citizenship status.