A new recording of sobbing children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border is agonizing to listen to. In the audio obtained by news site ProPublica, 10 Central American children who were separated from their parents one day last week are heard screaming for their mothers and fathers repeatedly, even pleading for their parents not to be deported.
"Well, we have an orchestra here," a border patrol agent from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility jokes. "What’s missing is a conductor."
A 6-year-old Salvadoran girl pleads over and over again for someone to call her aunt with the phone number that she has memorized.
The person who made the recording, kept anonymous by ProPublica to avoid retaliation, estimated the children to be between 4 and 10 years old.
The Trump administration introduced a controversial "zero-tolerance" immigration policy in April, aiming to prosecute everyone who attempts to enter the country illegally. One of the consequences of the policy is that it has literally torn families apart, separating parents from children at the border when parents are referred for prosecution and children are placed in the custody of a sponsor or held in a shelter. Although there are no laws that require children to be separated from their parents, since April 19, more than 2,000 children have been separated from their guardians, and more than 100 of them are under the age of 4.
All five living first ladies have spoken out against the immigration policy, with Laura Bush likening the situation to the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II and calling it "cruel," "immoral" and "shameful." The American Academy of Pediatrics has also said that separating children from parents can cause "irreparable harm" and "can contribute to chronic conditions like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and heart disease."
The ProPublica recording has given a voice to the children of undocumented migrants. One of the most famous visuals is from Pulitzer Prize winner and Getty Images photographer John Moore. Moore shared a photo of a toddler wailing next to her mom, who was being searched by a border patrol agent on June 13.
No parent wants to hear their children cry, let alone cry so hard they can barely breathe. It's a heartbreaking and enraging situation that can't stay this way.