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Listen to Children Who’ve Just Been Separated From Their Parents at the Border

The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.

The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying. “Well, we have an orchestra here,” he jokes. “What’s missing is a conductor.”

Then a distraught but determined 6-year-old Salvadoran girl pleads repeatedly for someone to call her aunt. Just one call, she begs anyone who will listen. She says she’s memorized the phone number, and at one point, rattles it off to a consular representative. “My mommy says that I’ll go with my aunt,” she whimpers, “and that she’ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible.”

An audio recording obtained by ProPublica adds real-life sounds of suffering to a contentious policy debate that has so far been short on input from those with the most at stake: immigrant children. More than 2,300 of them have been separated from their parents since April, when the Trump administration launched its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which calls for prosecuting all people who attempt to illegally enter the country and taking away the children they brought with them. More than 100 of those children are under the age of 4. The children are initially held in warehouses, tents or big box stores that have been converted into Border Patrol detention facilities.

Condemnations of the policy have been swift and sharp, including from some of the administration’s most reliable supporters. It has united religious conservatives and immigrant rights activists, who have said that “zero tolerance” amounts to “zero humanity.” Democratic and Republican members of Congress spoke out against the administration’s enforcement efforts over the weekend. Former first lady Laura Bush called the administration’s practices “cruel” and “immoral,” and likened images of immigrant children being held in kennels to those that came out of Japanese internment camps during World War II. And the American Association of Pediatricians has said the practice of separating children from their parents can cause the children “irreparable harm.”

Still, the administration had stood by it. President Trump blames Democrats and says his administration is only enforcing laws already on the books, although that’s not true. There are no laws that require children to be separated from their parents, or that call for criminal prosecutions of all undocumented border crossers. Those practices were established by the Trump administration.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cited passages from the Bible in an attempt to establish religious justification. On Monday, he defended it again saying it was a matter of rule of law, “We cannot and will not encourage people to bring children by giving them blanket immunity from our laws.” A Border Patrol spokesman echoed that thought in a written statement.

In recent days, authorities on the border have begun allowing tightly controlled tours of the facilities that are meant to put a humane face on the policy. But cameras are heavily restricted. And the children being held are not allowed to speak to journalists.

The audio obtained by ProPublica breaks that silence. 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.

The child who stood out the most was the 6-year-old Salvadoran girl with a phone number stuck in her head. At the end of the audio, a consular official offers to call the girl’s aunt. ProPublica dialed the number she recited in the audio, and spoke with the aunt about the call.

“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. They are from a small town called Armenia, about an hour’s drive northwest of the Salvadoran capital, but well within reach of its crippling crime waves. She said gangs were everywhere in El Salvador: “They’re on the buses. They’re in the banks. They’re in schools. They’re in the police. There’s nowhere for normal people to feel safe.”

She said her niece and sister set out for the United States over a month ago. They paid a smuggler $7,000 to guide them through Guatemala, and Mexico and across the border into the United States. Now, she said, all the risk and investment seem lost.

The aunt said she worried that any attempt to intervene in her niece’s situation would put hers and her daughter’s asylum case at risk, particularly since the Trump administration overturned asylum protections for victims of gang and domestic violence. She said she’s managed to speak to her sister, who has been moved to an immigration detention facility near Port Isabel, Texas. And she keeps in touch with her niece, Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid, by telephone. Mother and daughter, however, have not been able to speak to one another.

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?”

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.


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John Legend, Kiev, Burning Tesla, Steve Bannon, The Carters, Bronx Tale, Peacocks, Prince Harry, Robert De Niro: HOT LINKS

zach graves

STEVE BANNON. Donald Trump has never lied.

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? Satisfaction with U.S. direction reaches 12-year high. “Thirty-eight percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States today, similar to last month’s 37% satisfaction rate but marking the numerical high since a 39% reading in September 2005.”

THOMAS MARKLE. Meghan Markle’s father tried to out Prince Harry as a one-time Trump supporter.

2020. Trump supporter disrupts Robert De Niro-directed A Bronx Tale on Broadway.

POLL. Kim Jong Un more popular than Nancy Pelosi among Republicans. ‘The poll of roughly 1,000 adults aged 18 and over was conducted June 14-15, shortly after President Trump’s historic summit with the North Korea dictator. According to the results, 19 percent of Republicans indicated they had a favorable view of Kim with 68 percent saying they had an unfavorable view (12 percent of voters overall had a favorable view of Kim, compared to 75 percent who viewed him unfavorably). That compared slightly better than the perception of Pelosi, who had a 17 percent favorable, 72 percent unfavorable rating among self-identified Republicans.’

30.5 The age at which you stop discovering new music.

HOSPITALIZED. Heather Locklear threatened to shoot herself.

CAGED. Border Patrol releases video of McAllen, Texas detention facility.

LIE. Trump claims German crime rate is high in tweet slamming Merkel: “Crime in Germany is not way up. Official figures from last month show that the national crime rate fell 5 percent since last year in Germany, dropping to the lowest levels since 1992. The number of crimes committed by non-German individuals fell 23 percent. The one area of crime which saw a 2.5 percent increase was antisemitic attacks — with 94 percent of them committed by far-right German nationals.”

SERIOUSLY, F U. John Legend slams Paul Ryan for Father’s Day tweet.

UKRAINE. Thousands turn out for Gay Pride in Kiev. “About 5,000 were on hand for the march, whose size was estimated at 2,000 by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry and up to 6,000 by organizers. The Interfax news agency said opponents tried to block the march seven times, but were moved aside by police. Kiev held its first major pride march in 2016 after a pro-Western government that came to power sanctioned such events.” Police also detained 56 far-right activists.

TRANS EMPLOYMENT. 1 in 3 British employers would be less likely to hire a transgender person: “Less than one in five British employers have an inclusive policy towards transgender staff and only nine percent believe in legal protection against discrimination, according to the study by Crossland Employment Solicitors.”

TESLA. Model S filmed bursting into flames on West Hollywood street.

FROM A DISTANCE. Male peacocks can make female peacocks’ heads to vibrate. “When a peacock rattles his opulent train feathers at a female of the species, it makes a sound at a specific frequency – causing the crest on her head to vibrate energetically.”

MARRIAGE STORIES OF THE DAY. Björn Borg underwear presents ‘Marriage Unblocked’.

NEW TUNE OF THE DAY. The Carters “Apes**t”.


Instagram Photo

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Spend Your Wet, Hot American Summer At LGBTQ Sleepaway ‘Camp’ Camp

Pride may feel like the official kickoff of summer, but the spirit of community doesn’t end when the last float makes its way down the parade route. LGBT vacationers can keep the magic going with an unforgettable summer camp experience at ‘Camp’ Camp.

The weeklong getaway gathers a diverse community of adult LGBTQ campers to reimagine the traditional sleepaway camp experience with a big, gay twist.

From arts and crafts to capture the flag, all the familiar markers of the camp experience are there. Campers stay in cabins, share meals and form lifelong friendships all in the idyllic woods of southwestern Maine. While abandoning the day-to-day drudgery of conference calls, long commutes and the crush of social media notifications would be special enough, ‘Camp’ Camp elevates the entire camp experience for LGBTQ adults.

The meals are prepared by professional chefs; the days are packed with more than 30 different outdoor, athletic and creative activities; and you’ve never seen a talent show quite like this.

Of course, what makes ‘Camp’ Camp so special are the people. The inclusive atmosphere celebrates every stripe in the LGBTQ rainbow, welcoming campers of all gender identities from ages 21 to far into their 70s. Lip syncs, tea dances, drag and disco dominate evening programming. Introverts need not fear, though. Despite ample activities offered, participation isn’t mandatory. Campers can choose what they want to partake in or take time for themselves to just soak up the natural splendor around them.

The allure of ‘Camp’ Camp has attracted LGBTQ visitors since 1997. Over the years, a strong community has formed. ‘Camp’ Camp boasts a 75 percent retention rate, with 40 percent of last summer’s campers having joined for five years or more.

One of those campers is 30-year-old medical writer Shawn Jordan, who will be returning to ‘Camp’ Camp for his seventh summer this year.

We spoke with Shawn about what makes the ‘Camp’ Camp experience so special and what new campers should know before arriving for “the best time ever.”

Do you remember the moment when you first really felt Camp was for you?

I remember it was maybe half-way through the week. I had been so busy. Especially during my first year, I had been so keen on doing every activity I could possibly get to. It’s tough, because there is so much stuff to do, and it all sounds super fun.

I managed to carve out some time to go and just sit down at the waterfront, sort of off to myself for a bit, just to quiet my mind and take stock of where I was in the week and what it was like to be in that space. I remember at first the solitude of that moment, the peace of being alone in nature, seeing the lake before me, watching these loons out on the water so peaceful.

Then I started noticing what I was hearing was all the sounds of Camp, people laughing in the distance, the sounds of people making chain mail off somewhere, people cheering for someone coming down the zipline. It really reinforced the community aspect of the space and just how positive and affirming it is to be there. That’s when I was totally hooked.

What surprised you most about your experience at ‘Camp’ Camp?

It showed me really how diverse our community is. It’s something I knew before, but I never got to see and experience and be a part of. To combine that with just how much fun it was to be there in the first place. That was the biggest surprise for me. I was just kind of like wow this is amazing. For me growing up, it took a long time for me to come out and be comfortable with my sexuality. So to now be a part of a community that celebrates that aspect of ourselves with such audacity and happiness? It’s just amazing, really, it’s amazing.

What are some of your favorite activities?

For me, the go-to activity that I will not leave camp without doing is the adventure course. It’s like a high ropes course. You get to be up in the tree, strapped into these harnesses and climbing these rope elements. You get to go down the zipline at the end. It’s just an adrenaline rush, coupled with an intimacy with the nature that’s around you.

Some of the more creative stuff I’ve really, really enjoyed too. The stained glass making was one thing that surprised me. It’s something I’ve never, ever done before. I went to this class, I was met with really, really inviting instructors that made me feel comfortable and capable. I ended up leaving with a couple of pieces I still have hanging up in my apartment, and I’m so proud of them, because I made them. I made them in a space that brings me so much joy.

In addition to all the activities during the day, all of the social events every night are so much fun. We have a tea dance every year, which for the cabin I stay in, is THE event of the week. We all get dragged up for it. It’s a great bonding experience for our cabin especially because we’re all going with a singular theme. We’re all helping each other get into our costumes and come up with our concept. It reinforces this amazing little family that we have within the broader community.

What’s your favorite memory?

My husband, he also really loves doing the ropes course. We’ll often try to challenge ourselves by doing something extra to make it a bit tougher. There was this one year that we were bound together, we attached our harnesses, and we were climbing side-by-side through the entire thing. When we were up at the top we were just higher than everything, because we worked so hard to reach that point together and supporting each other. It was an amazing reinforcement of our relationship. We got to share this kiss at the top, and someone snapped this picture of it.

What’s your advice to first time campers?

If they’re doubting it, just do it. Just take the leap and immerse yourself into it. I guarantee once you’re there, you’re not going to want to leave. I think the biggest hurdle people have is getting caught up in their own misconceptions about what the experience will be like, and that paralyzes them not to do it in the first place. I know a lot of people who are now longtime campers that had that experience before they came.

On a more practical level: Bring lots of costumes. Bring some flair, because it’s a fun time to dress up and get crazy and goofy.

The 2018 ‘Camp’ Camp season runs from Aug. 19-26. Register for this this year’s ‘Camp’ Camp and learn more at

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Trump Announces Creation of ‘Space Force’, Sixth Branch of U.S. Armed Forces

trump space force

Donald Trump says he has instructed the Pentagon to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces.

Said Trump, speaking to members of the National Space Council: “In defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space. I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal.”

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DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Immigrant Children: ‘Don’t Believe the Press’

kirstjen nielsen

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the National Sheriffs’ Association not to believe the press regarding the Trump administration’s immigrant child separation policy.

Said Nielsen of the children: “Don’t believe the press. They are very well taken care of…We operate according to some of the highest standards in the country. We provide food, medical, education, and all needs that the child requests….We will not apologize for the job we do or for the job law enforcement does for doing the job that the American people expect us to do. Illegal actions have and must have consequences. No more free passes, no more get-out-of-jail-free cards.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Nielsen defended the Trump administration’s policies: “This misreporting by Members, press & advocacy groups must stop. It is irresponsible and unproductive. As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry”

She lied.

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Ann Coulter Claims Immigrant Children Ripped from Their Parents are ‘Child Actors’ – WATCH

Ann Coulter

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter claimed on FOX News over the weekend that immigrant children separated from their parents at the U.S. border are child actors.

Said Coulter: “As long as you incentivize people to come here from south of the border, they’re going to keep dying crossing the desert as long as you keep that magnet on. And what greater magnet is there than citizenship, Medicare, Medicaid, free health care? Yeah, that’s why people voted for a wall.  These child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now—do not fall for it, Mr. President. I get very nervous about the president getting his news from TV.

She added: “The New Yorker is not a conservative publication. They describe how these kids, these kids are being coached. They’re given scripts to read by liberals, according to The New Yorker. Don’t fall for the actor children.”

The article Coulter mentioned does not appear to exist, Right Wing Watch reports.

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Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown Met with Mike Pence’s Wife and Jonathan Van Ness is Upset: ‘She Doesn’t Like You, Girl!’

In a new interview with the Queer Eye‘s Fab Five from Vulture, culture guru Karamo Brown reveals that he recently met with Mike Pence’s wife at the White House.

Said Brown: “I met with Karen Pence and her chief of staff. It was phenomenal to be able to go in there and discuss arts but also speak about LGBT issues.”

At that, grooming guru Jonathan Van Ness could hold his tongue no longer: “She’s our biggest fan. She watches it every night. Her and dad like to watch it every night in their modesty outfits. But they watch it completely separated because it’s improper to look at each other face to face when you watch gay men.”

When Brown tried to continue, Van Ness interrupted, “There’s something about the Pences, honey. There’s something about them. I just freak out. I do. [Karen Pence] doesn’t like you girl. She doesn’t like us.”


Brown and Van Ness have different feelings about working with Republicans:

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