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Recording of Children Crying Adds to Anger over US Policy


Akemi Vargas, 8, cries as she talks about being separated from her father during a family separation protest in Phoenix, Arizona, June 18, 2018.
Recording of Children Crying Adds to Anger over US Policy
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An audio recording was published Monday that appears to capture the voices of young children crying out for the parents at a U.S. immigration detention center.

The audio file was first published by the nonprofit news group ProPublica.

The recording added to the growing disapproval of the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigration children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

One child, in Spanish, can be heard shouting, “Papa! Papa!” Some are crying too hard to speak. One young Salvadoran girl is heard asking several times if she can call her aunt to ask her to come get her.

Human rights lawyer Jennifer Harbury said she received the tape from a whistleblower. She told ProPublica it was recorded in the last week. She did not give details about where exactly it was recorded.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the audio. But she told reporters that children taken by the government are treated humanely. She said the children are well cared for. She also claimed that Congress needs to change the law so that families can stay together.

President Donald Trump’s Republican party controls both chambers of Congress. The family border policies were set by his administration.

The audio surfaced as politicians and activists have come in recent days to visit immigration detention centers. Their visits to the U.S.-Mexico border are meant to increase pressure on the Trump administration to end the practice of separating families.

Representative Ben Ray Lujan is a Democrat from New Mexico. He visited a center near the Texas city of Brownsville. He described the place as a former hospital that had been turned into living areas for children. Rooms are divided by age group. There is even a small room especially for babies, he said.

Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, June 18, 2018.
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, June 18, 2018.

Texas’ Rio Grande Valley is the busiest area for people trying to enter the country. Border Patrol officials say separating adults from children is a way to dissuade others from trying to come to the United States illegally.

Manuel Padilla, the area’s Border Patrol chief, said, “When you exempt a group of people from the law...that creates a draw.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at podium, speaks in front of members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus during a visit to the border Monday, June 18, 2018, in San Diego, California.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at podium, speaks in front of members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus during a visit to the border Monday, June 18, 2018, in San Diego, California.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is a Democrat from California. She spoke to reporters during a visit to detention centers near her state’s border with Mexico. She said family separation is a “heartbreaking...issue that could be changed in a moment by the president of the United States.”

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, announced Monday that he was introducing emergency legislation meant to keep immigrant families together.

“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers,” Cruz said. “This must stop.”

On Monday, Trump strongly defended his administration’s policy.

“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said. “Not on my watch.”

I’m Ashley Thompson.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

whistle-blower - n. a person who tells police, reporters, etc., about something (such as a crime) that has been kept secret

humane - adj. kind or gentle to people or animals

exempt - v. to say that (someone or something) does not have to do something that others are required to do

draw - n. someone or something that causes a lot of people to come to a place

challenge - v. to say or show that (something) may not be true, correct, or legal

conscience - n. the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong

horrified - adj. greatly upset and shocked

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