ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, published audio on Monday of children crying out for their parents at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.
The nearly eight-minute recording is of 10 Central American children who were separated from their parents last week by immigration authorities at the border, according to ProPublica.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent can be heard in the audio clip making a joke about the wailing children.
“Well, we have an orchestra here,” the agent says. “What’s missing is a conductor.”
The person who made the recording asked not to be identified out of fear of retaliation, ProPublica reports. HuffPost has not independently confirmed the authenticity of the recording.
At one point in the clip, a 6-year-old Salvadoran girl begs a consulate worker to call her aunt, whose number she’d memorized in case she was separated from her family.
“My mommy says that I’ll go with my aunt and that she’ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible,” the unidentified girl says.
President Donald Trump’s administration announced the family separation policy in May as a part of a “zero tolerance” crackdown on illegal immigration to the United States. The practice of taking children from parents who illegally enter the country has ignited bipartisan backlash.
Trump has blamed Democrats amid mounting criticism, saying the crackdown was a result of inaction on border security in Congress. However, the family separations are entirely the result of Trump administration policy.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also falsely purported the claim that the Trump administration’s tactic of taking children from their families at the border was an enforcement of the law.
There is no law requiring immigrant families to be separated, even if they are crossing the border illegally. Previous administrations allowed families to face deportation proceedings together in civil court.
Nielsen said at a Monday press briefing that she did not hear the recording of the children and referred reporters to the department’s “standards” in treating the kids.
New York Magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi played the audio in the background while Nielsen defended the family separation policy.
“I would have waited until I was called on to play it, but I was not being called on,” Nuzzi wrote on Twitter. “After another reporter’s phone began loudly ringing with a melodic jingle, I figured the briefing room could probably deal with a more important disturbance.”
Family separation ordered by the administration has resulted in nearly 2,000 children being separated from their parents in six weeks. There have been 1,995 children taken from 1,940 adults at the border from April 19 to May 31, The Associated Press reported.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially announced the change in policy in May, though some cases indicate the practice was in place for months before. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in February on behalf of a Congolese asylum-seeker who was separated from her 7-year-old daughter. The ACLU is seeking a nationwide injunction to stop the Trump administration’s policy, claiming it is a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s right to due process.
Listen to ProPublica’s full audio above.