Secret audio recorded at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility revealed harrowing cries from children separated from their families.
Shared on ProPublica Monday (June 18), the audio was taken at the facility last week where asylum seekers are either deported to their country or arrested. The children are often placed at the facility without any adults they know. What’s heard in the audio are presumed Central American children wailing and sobbing for their parents.
An agent can be heard in Spanish joking, “Well, we have an orchestra here, right? What’s missing is a conductor.”
Throughout the roughly 7-minute audio, a child identified as Alison is heard saying the phone number of her aunt and asking the agents if they can call her. The 6-year-old’s mother, 29-year-old Cindy Madrid, was separated from her child after they arrived in the US from a gang-riddled area in Armenia, northwest of the Salvadorian capital. The outlet spoke to her aunt, who is also seeking asylum in America for the same reason as her sister and niece.
“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.’” She also explained how gang members have taken over their native land. “They’re on the buses. They’re in the banks. They’re in schools. They’re in the police,” she said. “There’s nowhere for normal people to feel safe.”
Alison has since been moved to a shelter, but her mother still faces deportation. “I know she’s not an American citizen,” the aunt said. “But she’s a human being. She’s a child. How can they treat her this way?”
Since the announcement of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” approach over immigration began earlier this year, nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the border. Many are placed in foster care or in factory-style shelters where they wait to be reunited with family members who live in the United States.
Photos and video have shown children in cages or without beds as they beg for their parents. Trump has placed the act of family separation on Democrats. The Daily Beast fact-checked his statements by highlighting there were no laws that required family separation and that criminal prosecutions of the undocumented were deemed criminal by the Trump administration.
After the photos came to light, including one of a two-year-old crying at the border, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the policy.
“We will not apologize for the job we do, or for the job law enforcement does for doing the job that the American people expect us to do,” she said Monday. “It is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of. Don’t believe the press. They are very well taken care of. We operate according to some of the highest standards in the country.”
"Don't believe the press": Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen says minors separated from parents at the border are "well taken care of" according to "some of the highest standards in the country" https://t.co/METcjhQ4TR pic.twitter.com/SQnONeQHtS
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 18, 2018
Former first lady Laura Bush called out the administration’s practices, comparing the children to those who were placed in kennels at Japanese internment camps during World War II. Fellow former first lady Michelle Obama shared the same sentiments in a tweet Monday.
Sometimes truth transcends party. https://t.co/TeFM7NmNzU
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) June 18, 2018