Warning: the audio embedded into this article is incredibly upsetting, and not for the faint of heart.
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ProPublica has obtained audio from inside one of the many Border Patrol concentration camps – or as Trump would call them “not cages” – which illustrates not only the horrendous conditions to which these children are being subjected, but also the callous disregard for their humanity by the Border Patrol agents and Trump administration.
The start of the audio blares a cacophony of terrified children, wailing helplessly for their missing parents. Most sound like children mid-tantrum, exhausted, out of breath, as though they have been in this state for hours on end. Some appear to be so young the only words they can muster are “Mami” and “Papá” in the spacious, echoey chamber restraining them.
Just a few moments into the noise, a robust baritone bowls over the children’s cries, as a Border Patrol agent jokes “Well, we have an orchestra here,” before adding “what’s missing is a conductor.”
(It should be noted that in the video, both adults and children alike are speaking to one another in Spanish, with a transcription superimposed over the audio by ProPublica.)
Around the 2:57 mark, after over two minutes of indiscernible cries and sobs, a 6-year-old Salvadoran girl’s voice rises to the top, begging for anyone who would listen. The girl had been instructed by her mother to call her aunt. She says she’s memorized the phone number and makes several attempts to recite it, desperate to make the call.
It takes a few attempts, as consular agents discuss that the girl has refused to eat until she can contact her aunt. Toward the end, she finally manages to say, “My mommy says that I’ll go with my aunt, and that she’ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible.”
The audio switches back to indiscernible cries before it fades out.
Professional estimates indicate the voices present in the recording range in age between 4 and 10 years old. They appear to be new additions to the concentration camp, possibly restrained less than 24 hours, so the terror and anguish in their voices in still fresh and palpable.
The most prominent voice – the 6-year-old Salvadoran girl with her aunt’s number memorized – caught the attention of ProPublica’s journalists, who dialed the number before censoring it for public consumption.
The girl’s aunt answered, and described the harrowing ordeal:
The aunt explained that the most heartbreaking part of this conversation with her young niece was that she misunderstands how she is capable of helping her – in short, she isn’t.
The family reportedly left to seek asylum from gang violence – a policy Trump recently rescinded. She said her niece and sister set out for the United States over a month ago. They paid a smuggler $7,000 to guide them through Guatemala, and Mexico and across the border into the United States. Now, she said, all the risk and investment seem lost.
The aunt’s helplessness is a result of her own quest for asylum for herself and her 9-year-old daughter, but the pair have already made it into the states and are pending their own case. She fears that if she attempts to intervene on behalf of her sister, she and her daughter will lose their case and be deported.
If that weren’t enough, the aunt also stated that while she is able to communicate with her sister from a detention center in Port Isabel, Texas as well as with her niece, but mother and daughter have not spoken to one another since their apprehension – the helpless aunt plays mediator between the two, sending messages back and forth.
Trump and his administration clearly don’t see any of these refugees as human beings, as they continue to deflect from the topic, even going so far as to defend the practice using quotes from scripture.
Trump and his cronies have also worked fairly hard to keep this humanitarian crisis under wraps. So far, journalists have largely been barred from entering any detention facility. Some, like Jacob Soboroff have been working tirelessly to get documentation from the inside of these centers, revealing conditions like the one embedded in his tweet below:
JUST IN: Video from inside our tour of the Border Patrol's processing station in McAllen — the epicenter of family separations.
You'll see single adult males, but at about 53 seconds in it gets to mothers and girls.
— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) June 18, 2018
But Soboroff didn’t have much proof of the way children were treated – until ProPublica got a lucky break from someone inside the facility with a soul. The audio was recorded last week inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility. The person who made the recording asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.
Civil rights attorney Jennifer Harbury then took the audio on the anonymous recorder’s behalf who in turn released the audio to ProPublica. She said the person who recorded it was a client who “heard the children’s weeping and crying, and was devastated by it.”
Every single person who disagrees with the anonymous recorder and feels no empathy for the plight of these children or worse, chalks their confinement up to “breaking the law,” is complicit in this heinous reboot of WWII.
History will not remember this kindly. Make sure to be on the right side of this crisis.
For those who can handle it, ProPublica’s video with captions is available below: