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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The soundtrack of the Trump fields

Por Jade

If the first images of children separated from their parents, immigrants, upon arriving in the United States, they "broke the heart" to the former Republican first lady, Laura Bush, the sound of their crying will long chase the listener. ProPublica, an NGO dedicated to investigative journalism, has just released a sound recording of almost eight minutes from one of the juvenile detention centers set up by the Trump Administration in which the desperate crying of children is perfectly heard. The soundtrack of the Trump fields, where thousands of little children cry among strangers, separated from their families, disoriented. Many of them sound like they're crying so hard they can barely breathe. They scream "mommy" and "daddy" over and over again; as if those were the only words they know.

The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent rumbles over the crying. "Well, here we have an orchestra," he jokes. "The conductor was missing." Then, an anguished six-year-old Salvadoran girl pleads repeatedly for someone to call her aunt. Only one call, pray to anyone who hears her. She says she has memorized the telephone number and, at a given moment, recites it to a consular representative. "And my mom, after my aunt comes to me, will come as soon as possible to leave with her," she whines. An audio recording obtained by ProPublica puts sound to the real suffering of a controversial political debate in which until now have not participated those who have more at stake: immigrant children. More than 2,300 of them have been separated from their parents since April, when the Trump administration launched its zero tolerance immigration policy, which requires prosecuting all people who try to illegally enter the country and take the children they brought with them. More than 100 of these children are under the age of four. The children are initially in warehouses, tents or department stores that have been converted into Border Patrol detention centers.

The Trump Administration has been impassive to the criticisms raised by its policy of zero tolerance with illegal immigration, a measure with a deterrent vocation that translates into the separation of families as soon as they arrive in the country. Instead of treating the facts as an administrative fault, the US government has begun to bring charges against all people who cross the border illegally. While the parents await the resolution of the trial, the children are taken to juvenile centers, also in the case of asylum seekers who are considered to be entitled to protection. The condemnations of this policy have been rapid and sharp, even by some of the administration's most trusted supporters. It has united religious conservatives and immigrant rights activists, who have said that zero tolerance equals "zero humanity." Democratic and Republican members of Congress spoke out against the administration's efforts over the weekend. Former First Lady Laura Bush described the administration's practices as "cruel" and "immoral" and compared the images of immigrant children held in kennels with those of Japanese internment camps during World War II. And the American Association of Pediatricians has said that the practice of separating children from their parents can cause them "irreparable harm."

Even so, the administration has backed its policy. President Trump blames the Democrats and says that his government is only applying existing laws, although that is not true. There is no law that requires the separation of children from their parents, or that requires the criminal prosecution of all individuals who cross the border without documents. Those practices were established by the Trump administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cited passages from the Bible in an attempt to establish a religious justification for this policy. On Monday he defended it again saying it was a matter of rule of law. "We can not and will not incite people to bring children by giving them general immunity from our laws." A spokesman for the Border Patrol echoed that reasoning in a written statement. In recent days, the authorities at the border have begun to allow tours closely controlled by the facilities in order to put a human face to this policy, but the cameras are heavily restricted. And the detained children can not talk to journalists.

The audio obtained by ProPublica breaks that silence. It was recorded last week inside a Border Patrol detention center. The person who made the recording requested not to be identified for fear of reprisals. That person provided the audio to Jennifer Harbury, a well-known civil rights lawyer who has lived and worked for four decades in the Rio Grande Valley, along the Texas-Mexico border. In turn, Harbury provided the audio to ProPublica. She said that the person who recorded it was a client who "heard the crying and crying of the children and that was devastated". This person estimated that the children of the recording are between four and ten years old. It seemed that they had been in the detention center less than 24 hours, so their anguish at having been separated from their parents was still on the surface. The consulate officials tried to reassure them with snacks and toys, but the children were inconsolable. The Trump Administration is preparing to welcome more children and is setting up a tent camp in the desert, in Tornillo, in western Texas. From there they are taken to shelters or host families, sometimes thousands of kilometers away. Cases have begun to be reported of people who have been deported to their countries of origin without their children.