Crying for 'Mami' and 'Papá' at a Border Patrol detention center

Laina Yost

ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative news site, has obtained an audio recording of children crying for their parents at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.

A border patrol agent is heard saying “Well, we have an orchestra in here. What’s missing is a conductor.”

According to ProPublica, the recording captured 10 Central American children ages 4 to 10 who had been separated from their parents and brought to the unnamed facility within the previous 24 hours. The article describes the children crying “‘Mami’ and ‘Papá’ over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.”

“My mama says that I’ll go with my aunt,” one young girl says. “And that she’ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible.”

Children who’ve been taken into custody rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP)

The audio was recorded last week by someone who “heard the children’s weeping and crying, and was devastated by it,” according to the ProPublica article. That person, who asked to remain anonymous, gave the recording to Jennifer Harbury, a civil rights attorney.

The Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border has drawn condemnation from across the political spectrum, including former first lady Laura Bush and evangelist Franklin Graham, who has defended Trump on many issues.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who put into effect the “zero tolerance” policy of arresting and jailing adults who cross the border illegally, spoke at the National Sheriffs’ Association Annual Conference in New Orleans on Monday. He said the administration doesn’t want to separate children from their parents.

“Within hours, the children are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services,” Sessions said. “They’re not put in jail, of course, they are taken care of. They remain in the country even though they don’t have a lawful process to be here and enormous cost that is being incurred by our government.”


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