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This Is America

LISTEN: Children at US detention centre cry out for parents, plead with immigration agents

The audio features the voice of a six-year-old girl who repeatedly asks officials to call her aunt so she can leave.

ProPublica / YouTube

AN AUDIO RECORDING of young children crying for their parents as they are questioned by immigration officials inside a US Customs and Border Protection facility has emerged this morning.

The audio was obtained by US non-profit organisation ProPublica and purports to feature the voice of six-year-old Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid, who was separated from her mother last week at the Mexican border.

In the audio recording a young boy can be heard crying in the background, repeatedly calling for his ‘Papa’. A border patrol agent jokes: “Well, we have an orchestra here. What’s missing is a conductor.”

The children are questioned about where they are from. The girl, through tears, tells him “El Salvador”, while another child responds “Guatamala”.

“Don’t cry,” he tells them.

The six-year-old pleads with agents to call her aunt, telling them “I have her number memorised” before reciting it for them. She continues throughout the audio to ask officials to call her aunt so she can leave.

“Are you going to call my aunt so that when I’m done eating she can pick me up?” she asks.

“I want to go too,” another child tells them.

Later, as the agent takes the girl to go call her aunt, she repeats:

“My mommy says I’ll go with my aunt and that she’ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible so I can go with her.”

The audio was given to civil rights lawyer Jennifer Harbury by a whistleblower and she passed it on to the non-profit organisation.

She told ProPublica the person “heard the children’s weeping and crying and was devastated by it”.

The whistleblower said the children on the recording were between four and 10 years old and it appeared they had been at the detention centre for less than 24 hours at the time.

Official data shows more than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents or guardians since early May, when the administration said it would arrest and charge all migrants who illegally crossed the Mexican border – even if they were seeking asylum.

The six-year-old girl did get to speak to her aunt, who said it was “the hardest moment in my life”. She travelled to the US two years ago with her own daughter and is currently seeking asylum. She is concerned that any attempt to intervene with her niece would put her own case at risk.

“Imagine getting a call from your six-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.’”

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