The recording ricocheted around the world, giving voice to the thousands of children separated at the border by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
Among other children crying and wailing, 6-year-old Alisson Madrid begged a border patrol agent to let her call her aunt, and recited the phone number she had memorized. “Mommy says I’ll go with my aunt and that she’ll come to pick me up as quickly as possible,” the little girl could be heard saying on the recording. She was with her mother Cindy Madrid after their 17-day escape from El Salvador before being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, CNN reports.
They had been detained together at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Texas, until Alisson was taken away without explanation and sent to Arizona. The recording from the detention center was smuggled out, given to a civil rights attorney, and published by ProPublica last month. (Listen to it here.) One border patrol agent jokingly calls the collective sound of children’s cries an “orchestra.”
Cindy Madrid heard the recording on the news and contacted the facility to try and reach her daughter. Weeks went by — she didn’t know when or if they would see each other again.
Happy reunion for Cindy Madrid and her 6-year-old daughter Allison who were detained after coming from El Salvador in hopes to seek asylum. Their message to others- "Keep fighting!" @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/tF046ieiYi
— KPRC2 Rose-Ann Aragon (@KPRC2RoseAnn) July 13, 2018
But after a month apart, mother and daughter were finally reunited at a Houston airport on Friday. “It’s so hard for a parent to be away from their kids,” Madrid said that afternoon through an interpreter at a news conference. “I was so desperate and concerned.”
Thelma Garcia, Madrid’s lawyer, credits the audio with reuniting mother and daughter. ”Her voice is what, I think, exploded the Trump policy of separating families and keeping it quiet,” she told CNN. “Nobody actually knew about this before the baby came up and said, ‘Call my aunt. This is her phone number. Could you please call my aunt?’ And had that audio not been sneaked out and not been brought forward the way it was, nobody would have actually known.”
They will have an asylum hearing and meanwhile will live with Madrid’s family in Houston.
Young Alisson smiled and held her mother’s hand at the airport. ”I was happy because I was able to see her and hug her,” she said through the interpreter. “I was away from her for a month and I was really happy when I saw her.”
Despite the immigration policy being reversed amid international outcry, thousands of children are still separated from their parents with no real timeline or system for reuniting them.
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