United States investigative news website ProPublica on Monday published an audio recording of immigrant children from Central America crying inconsolably for their parents at a detention centre on the US-Mexico border. This comes even as President Donald Trump’s administration continues to defend its policy of separating children from their families when they are caught entering the United States without documentation, Reuters reported.
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced a “zero tolerance” policy that allows authorities to slap criminal charges on undocumented immigrants. This has led to nearly 2,000 children being separated from their parents in just six weeks. These children have been placed in government facilities or in foster care – and according to one report, are even being held in “cages”.
In the audio, the children repeatedly call for their “papi [father]” and “mami [mother]”, while one six-year-old Salvadoran girl, who had memorised her aunt’s telephone number, can be heard pleading with consular officials to allow her to make one call. As the children wail, a Border Patrol agent is heard saying: “Well, we have an orchestra here, what’s missing is a conductor.”
The girl’s aunt, who spoke to ProPublica, said the phone call was the hardest moment of her life. “Imagine getting a call from your six-year-old niece,” she said. “She is crying and begging me to go get her. She says, ‘I promise I will behave, but please get me out of here. I am all alone.’”
The recording was made last week at a US Customs and Border Protection detention facility. The person who made the recording handed it over to civil rights attorney Jennifer Harbury, who sent it to ProPublica.
First Lady Melania Trump on Sunday joined the chorus against the policy, saying she “hates to see children separated from their families”. Laura Bush, wife of former President George W Bush, called the policy immoral and said it was inconsistent with American values. Rosalyn Carter, the wife of former President Jimmy Carter, has also criticised the policy. While Democrats blasted the policy as barbaric, a few of Trump’s fellow Republicans also voiced concerns.
However, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was appointed by Trump, told reporters at the White House on Monday that the administration was only strictly enforcing the law, Reuters reported. “This administration did not create a policy of separating families...What has changed is that we no longer exempt entire classes of people who break the law,” she said.