In Audio, Border Agent Jokes About Screaming of Separated Kids

McCain calls policy an 'affront to the decency of the American people'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2018 4:51 AM CDT

A harrowing recording from inside a border facility has added fuel to the controversy over the immigration policies that have separated thousands of children from their families. In the recording, which ProPublica says was made last week and provided to civil rights attorney Jennifer Harbury by a whistleblower, wailing children call "Mami" and "Papi" over and over again. They're mocked by a Border Patrol agent. "Well, we have an orchestra here," he says, in Spanish. "What's missing is a conductor." Harbury says the person who made the recording "heard the children's weeping and crying and was devastated by it." She says the children are believed to be between 4 and 10 years old. In other developments:

  • GOP backlash. Much of the condemnation of the "zero tolerance" policy responsible for the separations came from within the GOP, which fears the issue will cost it dearly in the midterms, the Washington Post reports. "It's time for this ugly and inhumane practice to end. Now," said Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, adding: "It's never acceptable to use kids as bargaining chips in political process." Sen. John McCain tweeted that the policy is an "affront to the decency of the American people, and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded."

  • Senate action. Amid mounting public outrage, Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told reporters Monday that Senate Republicans are working on ways to address the family separations, the AP reports. "I don't think the answer to family separation is to not enforce the law. I think the answer to family separation is: Don't separate families while you're enforcing the law," he said. "It's all within our power, and people have to overcome their desire to preserve an issue to campaign on."
  • Emergency legislation from Cruz. The Senate efforts may include emergency legislation from Sen. Ted Cruz, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "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 in a news release, outlining measures that would include new emergency shelters to accommodate families detained by border authorities.
  • More immigration crackdowns. Politico reports that Trump aides including Stephen Miller are planning to introduce more tough anti-immigration measures, including crackdowns on visas for students and agricultural workers, despite the backlash to the family separations.

  • "A form of child abuse." Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CBS News Monday that the separations are "a form of child abuse." Kraft, who described seeing an extremely distressed girl under 2 during a visit to a Texas facility, said the trauma caused to the children by the stress of separation can be long-lasting and hard to recover from.
  • Trump defiant. President Trump, who has remained defiant as opposition to the policy intensifies, is due to meet with House Republicans Tuesday, the New York Times reports. The president has blamed Democrats for the policy, tweeting it is time to "CHANGE THE LAWS," though there is no law stating that children should be separated from their families at the border.
  • The view from late night. Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers were among the late-night hosts attacking the policy Monday, the New York Daily News reports. Miller describes the policy as a "potent tool ... for stopping migrants from flooding across the border," Colbert said. "Which is fitting because I've always thought of Stephen Miller as a potent tool. Meyers said: "To be absolutely clear, this is not a law. It's a choice by the Trump administration, and they could end it right now. And yet Trump is trying to gaslight the country into thinking it's actually the Democrats' fault that this policy exists."
(The term "cages" was a flashpoint in the controversy Monday.)

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