Distraught children cry for their mums and dads being separated from their migrant parents at the United States border.
Toddlers and babies younger than a year old are being kept in wire cages and forced to sleep on concrete floors in detention facilities while their parents are held in jail.
The family separations are the result of Donald Trump ‘s ‘zero tolerance’ policy that arrests all adults who are caught trying to enter the US illegally, including those seeking asylum.
In harrowing audio, obtained by nonprofit ProPublica , children can be heard wailing for their parents while a Border Patrol agent taunts them.
The youngsters, described as Central American children separated from their parents last week, scream Mami and Papá over and over again.
The guard’s voice then booms over the sound of their sobs Well, we have an orchestra here. What’s missing is a conductor.
A total of 1,174 children have been taken away from their mothers and fathers in the US Border Patrol’s South Texas Rio Grande Valley sector.
Many of the youngsters have been brought to the Central Processing Station in McAllen, Texas, since the policy was announced on May 7, Border Patrol sector chief Manuel Padilla told NBC.
The immigration facility, known as Ursula, is now home to around 500 children separated from their families.
Children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers, are crammed into wire cages, up to 20 at a time, according to witnesses who visited the site.
An advocate who was allowed inside Ursula told how a teenage girl had been teaching other children how to change the nappies of the toddlers they are being held in a cage with.
Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, said the 16-year-old had been taking care of a girl, believed to be two years old, for three days.
She had to teach other kids in the cell to change her diaper, Brane told reporters.
She added that the child, who it later emerged was aged four and spoke no Spanish, only K’iche, a language indigenous to Guatemala, was eventually reunited with her aunt.
Brane added She was so traumatised that she wasn’t talking. She was just curled up in a little ball.
As anger over the scandal on Monday, the Trump administration defended its hardline immigration policy at the US-Mexico border.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, appointed by Trump, told reporters at a White House briefing that the administration was only strictly enforcing the law.
This administration did not create a policy of separating families. … What has changed is that we no longer exempt entire classes of people who break the law, she said.
Trump administration officials say the zero-tolerance policy, which was not practiced by the two previous presidents, is needed to secure the border and deter illegal immigration.
President Trump said on Monday the United States would not be a migrant camp, as he blamed Democrats for not coming to the table to negotiate immigration legislation.
The United States will not be a migrant camp, he said as he opened a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House.
And it will not be refugee-holding facility – it won’t be.
But Democrats and some Republicans have admonished the administration for dividing nearly 2,000 children from their parents between mid-April and the end of May.
Medical professionals have said the practice could cause lasting trauma to children.
The increasing number of children being ripped away from their parents is sickening, said Democratic Senator Michael Bennet.
Yet the president and his administration continue to perpetuate falsehoods and blame others for their own cruelty.
Democratic lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, visited detention centres on Monday.
After touring facility in San Diego, Pelosi said Our message to Mr. Trump is, stop this inhumane, barbaric policy.
This is not an immigration issue this is a humanitarian issue.
She added But the president says ‘it’s not my fault I didn’t do it,’ no you did do it. You did it to the Dreamers and now you’re doing to the children. You can rescind this action in a moment, said Pelosi.
Pelosi also called on Nielsen to resign from her post over the dispute.
Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee told reporters Today I saw a little nine-month-old and a one-year-old, obviously babies who had been separated.
So the question is as I yield, what are we here to do to be solution and problem solvers? We could right now, or we would right now or we would right now or we are saying to the president right now to stop this zero tolerance and the child abuse of this children.
Trump has sought to use the widespread outrage over the family separations to push through other immigration priorities that have stalled in Congress, such as funding for his long-promised wall along the Mexican border.
He has blamed Democrats for the impasse, even though his fellow Republicans control both chambers of Congress.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who ran unsuccessfully against Trump in 2016 for their party’s presidential nomination, said he would introduce legislation this week to halt family separations.
All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers. This must stop. Now. We can end this crisis by passing the legislation I am introducing, the Texas lawmaker said.
He said his bill would build temporary shelters where immigrant families could stay together in cases where there was no threat to the children’s safety, double the number of federal immigration judges and speed handling of asylum applications.
The House was set to vote on Thursday on two Republican immigration bills, both drafted without input from Democrats.
One would limit, but not entirely prohibit family separations, fund Trump’s wall and give legal protections to young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought to the country illegally as children. Details were still in flux.
The bill faces strong headwinds as it is opposed by Democrats, who object to another provision that would cut legal immigration levels, and conservative Republicans who are backing a rival bill that takes a harder line on immigration.
Trump was due to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday evening as they prepared to vote on the two bills.
The debate over family separations drew in current and former presidential wives, including Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, who condemned the practice.
Laura Bush, wife of President George W Bush, compared images of children at detention facilities to internment camps for US citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II .
Melania Trump released a statement on Sunday saying she hates to see children separated from their families.
Border crossings briefly dropped after Trump took office in January 2017, but have since risen to levels seen during the administration of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.
Almost 52,000 people were caught trying to cross the southern border illegally in May, according to government figures.
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