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Listen: children sob at US border facility after being separated from their families

For eight minutes, children cry for their parents while one federal agent cracks jokes.

Ranjani Chakraborty/Vox
Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

This is what children sound like when American authorities separate them from their families at the US border.

ProPublica obtained the audio and posted it online Monday afternoon. Throughout the eight-minute clip, you can hear several children sobbing and crying for their parents and other family members. At one point, a federal agent makes a joke that the crying sounds like an orchestra. Later, a federal worker asks the children where their parents are. One says their mom is at “someone else’s house.” Another says their mom is in Honduras.

This is how ProPublica described the origins of the tape:

The audio obtained by ProPublica breaks that silence. It was recorded last week inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility. The person who made the recording asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. That person gave the audio to Jennifer Harbury, a well-known civil rights attorney who has lived and worked for four decades in the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border with Mexico. Harbury provided it to ProPublica. She said the person who recorded it was a client who “heard the children’s weeping and crying, and was devastated by it.”

The person estimated that the children on the recording are between 4 and 10 years old. It appeared that they had been at the detention center for less than 24 hours, so their distress at having been separated from their parents was still raw. Consulate officials tried to comfort them with snacks and toys. But the children were inconsolable.

Federal authorities have separated at least 2,000 children from their parents in recent weeks, according to the Trump administration. In addition to the audio above, we have also seen photographs of the facilities where these children are being detained.

Listen to the original 7 minute audio clip below: