A recording of crying immigrant children who reportedly were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border circulated online Monday, sparking outrage among critics of the Trump administration's controversial "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration.
The eight-minute audio clip, first published Monday by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news site, was recorded at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection center last week, the outlet reported. Children can be heard calling for "Mami" and "Papa" as one girl asks to call her aunt. One man, identified by ProPublica as a Border Patrol agent, can be heard saying of the sobs: "Well, we have an orchestra here. What's missing is a conductor."
According to ProPublica, the person who secretly recorded the audio gave it to civil rights attorney Jennifer Harbury, who then passed it along to the news site.
According to The Associated Press, the "zero tolerance" policy, which started last month, "sought to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally," leading to more adults in jail, separated from their children.
At a White House press briefing Monday afternoon, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the recording, which one reporter played on speaker phone during the briefing. She said the children are treated humanely and given meals, education and medical care.
Nielsen said recordings and photos from the border facilities that have circulated online "reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives."