UPDATE: Just as Department of Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen was doubling down in the Whote House briefing room and defending the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their mothers, California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris was calling on Nielsen to resign. “The government should be in the business of keeping families together, not tearing them apart,” Harris said in a statement. “And the government should have a commitment to transparency and accountability. Under Secretary Nielsen’s tenure, the Department of Homeland Security has a track record of neither. As a result, she must resign.”
After listening to the audio of crying children in a detention center, Harris told MSNBC that they policy was “unconscionable” and “unnecessary” to have these innocent children “being traumatized. “My god!…This is outrageous….Why are they doing it?” At some point, she said, we need to “draw a line in the sand.”
“Nearly 2,000 minors have been separated from their families at the U.S. border over a six-week period during a crackdown on illegal entries, according to Department of Homeland Security figures obtained by The Associated Press,” the AP reported Monday.
A DHS official told NBC News that if the Trump administration continues its family separation policy—tearing children from the arms of mothers fleeing violence in their home countries and seeking asylum—the number of minors in US Customs and Border Protection facilities could reach 20,000 by August. Meanwhile, rules intended to protect children from possible sexual assault mean that agents or any other guards or officials are not allowed to touch the children. Reports indicate that older children have been changing babies’ soiled diapers.
Now ProPublica has released audio of the children crying, as a guard jokes at their trauma.
ProPublica reports: “The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream ‘Mami’ and ‘Papá’ over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.
The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying. ‘Well, we have an orchestra here,’ he jokes. ‘What’s missing is a conductor.’”
A 6-year-old Salvadoran girl repeatedly pleads for someone to call her aunt, rattling off the memorized number. “My mommy says that I’ll go with my aunt,” she whimpers, “and that she’ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible.”
The Trump administration continues to defend its policy as a law, which it is not, despite growing reaction from former Republican First Lady Laura Bush who wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the policy “breaks my heart.”
“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” Bush writes. “Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”
Bush recalls her late mother-in-law’s reaction to babies with HIV/AIDS.
“Twenty-nine years ago, my mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, visited Grandma’s House, a home for children with HIV/AIDS in Washington. Back then, at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the disease was a death sentence, and most babies born with it were considered “untouchables.” During her visit, Barbara — who was the first lady at the time — picked up a fussy, dying baby named Donovan and snuggled him against her shoulder to soothe him. My mother-in-law never viewed her embrace of that fragile child as courageous. She simply saw it as the right thing to do in a world that can be arbitrary, unkind and even cruel. She, who after the death of her 3-year-old daughter knew what it was to lose a child, believed that every child is deserving of human kindness, compassion and love,” Laura Bush wrote. “In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis? I, for one, believe we can.”
Ari Gutierrez, co-founder of the Latino Equality Alliance, finds the policy heartrenching, as well.
“As a parent of a young daughter, I am horrified at the US policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border. As Latina parents, my wife and I dedicate the core of our being to the safety and wellness of our child. These families literally carried their young children for hundreds of miles with the intention of getting them to safety,” Gutierrez tells the Los Angeles Blade.
“That level of physical and emotional sacrifice by the parents should not be dismissed,” she continues. “Let’s not forget either that these families are refugees escaping violence and economic instability. No one wants to leave their home or risk their safety or the safety of their children without a very good reason. In terms of human rights – It’s time for the US to be held to a higher standard on the world stage. This racist ploy by the Trump Administration is unwarranted and unforgivable.”