Reporters Ask Kirstjen Nielsen 'Where Are The Girls?' 'Fuck You,' She Explains
A recording from a basement in Omelas.
ProPublica released a recording yesterday of children in a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facility crying for their parents after being subjected to the tender mercies of the New Cruelty.
The children are distraught, sobbing, inconsolable (not that the Border Patrol agents seem especially interested in consoling them). As ProPublica notes, "They scream 'Mami' and 'Papá' over and over again, as if those are the only words they know." You do not want to listen. But maybe you must.
One Border Patrol agent makes a very amusing joke as he hears all the children crying: "Well, we have an orchestra here [...] What's missing is a conductor."
Can anyone doubt that SS guards made similar jokes as children were unloaded from boxcars?
This recording is why the government has insisted on carefully stage-managed visits to the facilities where children are being held. No cameras, no talking to the children -- because "privacy." ProPublica reporter Ginger Thompson explains how the recording came to light:
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.
One little girl on the recording, a 6-year-old Salvadoran girl, keeps asking for help reaching her aunt, who's already here in the US. She memorized her tia's phone number, the one thing she has that she believes can get her out of this misery. She recites it to a consular representative, pleading,
At least can I go with my aunt? I want her to come. I want my aunt to come so she can take me to her house [...]
Are you going to call my aunt, so that when I'm done eating, she can pick me up?
As the consular worker says she'll help the girl call her aunt, another child chimes in: "I want to go too."
These kids are just as puzzled by their situation as anyone thrown into a reality written by Kafka: Surely there's been a mistake. Please, call my aunt. She can tell you I don't belong here. This is all wrong. Can I go with her when her aunt comes? Or as this girl insists, "My mommy says I'll go with my aunt, and that she'll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible so I can go with her." You keep expecting her to promise she'll be good, she'll be a good girl.
The girl, Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid, eventually did get help with that call, and reached her aunt. ProPublica called the number the girl gave, and spoke to the aunt, who is herself seeking asylum in the US:
"It was the hardest moment in my life," she said. "Imagine getting a call from your 6-year-old niece. She's crying and begging me to go get her. She says, 'I promise I'll behave, but please get me out of here. I'm all alone.'"
The aunt said what made the call even more painful was that there was nothing she could do. She and her 9-year-old daughter are seeking asylum in the United States after immigrating here two years ago for the exact same reasons and on the exact same route as her sister and her niece.
She's afraid to try to do anything for her niece, because she fears that might endanger her daughter's asylum case and her own, especially now that Jeff Sessions has decided that merely running for your life from gangs isn't good enough reason to apply for asylum. That seems a reasonable fear -- given Trump's politics of personal grudge, we wouldn't be surprised if he instructs the DOJ to ensure she's deported as soon as possible -- which we suppose could give her a good case for asylum in Canada.
Alison's aunt said she has spoken with her on the phone, and also with Alison's mother, who is in detention in Texas, but that Alison and her mom still haven't made contact.
The aunt said that Alison has been moved out of the Border Patrol facility to a shelter where she has a real bed. But she said that authorities at the shelter have warned the girl that her mother, 29-year-old Cindy Madrid, might be deported without her.
"I know she's not an American citizen," the aunt said of her niece. "But she's a human being. She's a child. How can they treat her this way?"
Because they can. This is all about exercising power over the most powerless, to score points with the base. The comments on the ProPublica piece are full of happy Trumpy Nazis who are delighted to see they finally have a leader who's getting tough on six-year-olds.
ProPublica's recording hit the internet while reporters in the White House press room were waiting for a briefing from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who filled in for Sarah Sanders after Sanders apparently decided she wasn't ready to go out and lie yesterday. Splinter News reporter Jorge Rivas posted video of the reporters listening intently to the children:
Rivas followed the video with the comment, "first press briefing question better be about this audio."
Neilsen didn't directly comment on the audio, but New York magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi did play it during the presser, as she described on Twitter:
I would have waited until I was called on to play it, but I was not being called on. After another reporter’s phone… https: //t.co/6z2fu00HE1
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivia Nuzzi) 1529359181.0
Nuzzi didn't give Nielsen a very good grade for the performance, either:
Note Nielsen’s repeated use of the dehumanizing term “alien children.” This, in the same monologue in which she say… https: //t.co/HPftSolQfK
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivia Nuzzi) 1529356818.0
From the White House podium, Nielsen’s attitude towards the press is sharp and irritated. She appears to have more… https: //t.co/I8KFyNmCqV
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivia Nuzzi) 1529357313.0
The Base will be pleased. If Nielsen heard the recording, she didn't let on. Reporter April Ryan certainly heard it, though, and tweeted during the presser,
Things are off the chain in here. Someone is playing the sound of that child in the back. We hear it. I wonder if Madam Sec is heating it?
— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) 1529357795.0
Nielsen probably wouldn't have been impressed even if she'd heard the howls, however, because she has a heart of ICE and wants to impress Donald Trump that she's wholly committed to the New Cruelty:
Reporters attempted to ask her questions about the material in the recording — including "How is this not child abuse?" — but she did not respond directly. Asked if the recordings, along with pictures and more that have emerged in recent days, are an unintended consequence of the administration's approach, she said, "I think that they reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives."
ProPublica's president, Richard Tofel, explained the investigative reporting group's real agenda: "Our agenda is to bring the American people facts for their consideration." Clearly an enemy of the people.
Earlier in the day, speaking to a law-enforcement convention in New Orleans, Nielsen had warned her audience that the media are just lying all the time about our growing network of Gulags for Children:
DHS Sec. Nielsen addresses administration policy of separating children from parents at U.S.-Mexico border. "These… https: //t.co/YXeV2IYkNj
— 𝙹𝚞𝚊𝚗 𝙻. 𝚁𝚘𝚍𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚣 (@𝙹𝚞𝚊𝚗 𝙻. 𝚁𝚘𝚍𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚣) 1529332664.0
It is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of. Don't believe the press. They are very well taken care of. You know this, as many of you have detention facilities of your own. We operate according to some of the highest standards in the country. We provide food, medical, education and all needs that the child requests.
Except, of course, for a child's Mami or Papá. Except, of course, for a hug (shelter workers aren't allowed physical contact with kids ). Except, of course, for the basic human right of being comforted, of feeling safe. Why think about the psychological damage being done to migrant children? They didn't vote for Trump, and there's red meat to be thrown to those who did.
At the same time, while insisting the children were well-cared-for, Nielsen could not tell reporters present: Where were the girls?
Reporter: Why is the government only releasing images of the boys being held? Where are the girls & toddlers? Nie… https://t.co/ZFChE8Krc7
— POLITICO (@POLITICO) 1529357773.0
It's one thing for Twitter to not know the answer to that; it's entirely another for the head of the Department of Homeland Security. Since the briefing was four hours late as they waited for Secretary Nielsen to fly in for it, we could only wonder whether Sarah Huckabee Sanders -- who was supposed to brief the press -- had finally hit the wall.
She's a good Christian woman. Right?
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