When we see the images of undocumented children behind fences — in the custody of the U.S. government — who’ve been newly separated from their families or whom have tried to enter the U.S. alone, the emotion is undeniably palpable. But images alone do not tell the whole story.
Yesterday afternoon, ProPublica published an audio file of a recorded exchange between children and Border Patrol agents. It’s not determined when or where the recording occurred, but what is clear is that some children are scared, others are crying, and one girl in particular just wants officials to call her aunt so she can come pick her up.
All the agents in the audio speak Spanish to the kids, and one man mocks them as they cry. “Well, we have an orchestra here,” the man says jokily in Spanish as the children cry. “What’s missing is a conductor.” You can hear his offensive comments at the 1:09 minute mark.
The audio was released in almost perfect timing of the White House press briefing, which Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen would be speaking at. Nielsen is the chief implementor of separating families, which is a new policy enacted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to families that enter the U.S. illegally.
During the press briefing, Nielsen claims that 10,000 of the children who come into the U.S. illegally do so alone, which makes them vulnerable to human trafficking. A reporter at the briefing wanted to discuss the other 2,000 kids that come with their parents.
“The children are not being used as a pawn, we are trying to protect the children,” Nielsen said. Nielsen also claimed that she hasn’t seen any images of children being held in cages. Just then Olivia Nuzzi, a reporter for New York magazine played the audio as the press briefing continued. Nuzzi writes:
“As Nielsen spoke, another reporter’s phone began to ring with a mildly ridiculous melodic clang. After a while, when none of the reporters who’d been called on elected to play the audio published by ProPublica and ask for a response, I decided to play it. It was a small disturbance, prompting confused looks around the briefing room and expressions of annoyance and emerging panic from two White House aides, but it didn’t outright disrupt. Nielsen seemed to hear it — it’s a small room, it’d be hard not to — but she didn’t veer from her script.”
You can see in the video below, at around the 21:24 minute mark that the reporter plays the audio for Nielsen to hear.
As of now, Democrats have introduced several bills such as: Keep Families Together Act; R. 2572 – Protect Family Values at the Border Act; 5950/S.2937 – the HELP Separated Children Act; and the 2043/S. 2468 – Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2018, in order to have Sessions’ policy banned.
Here’s what you can do to help keep families together.