Young immigrant children in a detention center can be heard crying out “Mami!” and “Papá!” between sobs in an eight-minute audio recording first obtained by ProPublica.
The children, who are believed to be between the ages of four and ten, can be heard crying in the recording because their parents have been detained elsewhere after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The recording is a one of several documents and accounts that have emerged showing the effects that this immigration policy has on these children, even though government officials have prohibited journalists who enter the detention facility for migrant children from recording or interviewing the children, The New York Times reports.
In an accompanying article to the audio recording, ProPublica says the recording was taken a week ago inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility. The person that made the recording asked to remain anonymous in fear of retribution. The individual, who is a client of Jennifer Harbury, provided it to the civil rights attorney, who then shared it with ProPublica. Harbury said her client “heard the children’s weeping and crying, and was devastated by it.”
“Well, we have an orchestra here,” someone who is believed to be a U.S. Border Patrol agent says on the recording. “What's missing is a conductor.”
One of the children heard on the audio recording is a distraught, six-year-old Salvadoran girl. She pleads a consulate official to let her call her aunt. The young girl says she has memorized the number for her aunt, and rattles it off to the official.
“My mommy says that I’ll go with my aunt,” the young girl says through her tears. “And that she’ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible.”
At the end of the audio recording, the official offers to call the girl’s aunt.
ProPublica caught up with the aunt about the call.
“It was the hardest moment in my life,” she said. “Imagine getting a call from your 6-year-old niece. She’s crying and begging me to go get her. She says, ‘I promise I’ll behave, but please get me out of here. I’m all alone.’”
According to ABC News, the aunt herself is seeking asylum in the U.S., and confirmed that the girl’s family paid $7,000 to a guide to smuggle the girl and her mother into Mexico and then the U.S.
ProPublica reported that the children heard in the recording had not even been in the detention center for a full 24 hours “so their distress at having been separated from their parents was still raw.” The individual who made the recording said the officials “tried to comfort them with snacks and toys,” but “the children were inconsolable.”
According to ABC News, government statistics indicate that nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period between April and May.
President Donald Trump said on Friday that he “hate[s] the children being taken away,” but placed the blame on Democrats and “their law.”
“To a select few in the media, Congress and the advocacy community, I'd like to start with a message for you: This department will no longer stand by and watch you attack law enforcement for enforcing the laws passed by Congress,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Monday at the National Sheriffs' Association in New Orleans. “We will not apologize for the job we do, for the job law enforcement does and for the job the American people expect us to do.”
However, Nielsen tweeted the day before that Homeland Security “[did] not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”
During the announcement of a Space Force on Monday, Trump said “the United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility.”