Workers at a Harlem facility threatened migrant children to not talk to the press, according to new, secret recordings that also show children in tears over being separated from their parents.
The cellphone footage was shot by a former employee of the Cayuga Center who said she’s disturbed by the influx of little children there as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
“It’s sad to know that these children are crying for their parents. They don’t know where their parents are,” said the woman, who gave MSNBC and CBS News the secret videos and photos on the condition of anonymity.
She quit Cayuga — which has been housing more than 350 separated children — over the conditions last week.
Some of the videos show packed classrooms and children sitting at a table eating lunch.
In one clip, a little girl named Jessica, whose face is blurred, tells the woman through tears in Spanish that she wants to speak to her mom. The girl says her mom is “over there in the States.”
The former employee also recorded audio in which a Cayuga staffer can be heard threatening the kids in Spanish not to speak to the media.
“And do you know the other thing that is more important, and that I know I am not supposed to be telling you, but I am going to tell you the truth,” the worker says. “If for whatever reason you tell a reporter — you know what’s going to happen to your case? It is going to be on the news — and then one doesn’t know what is going to happen — if you are going to last here for a long time.”
In another clip, a child named Leo loses his smile when asked if he’s sad about being away from his mother, Lourdes. The two were separated two days after arriving at the Texas border May 10.
Lourdes is represented by Michael Avenatti — the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels who has about 60 other immigrant families as clients. He provided the surreptitious recordings to CBS and MSNBC.
“She had no idea where he was for the better part of three weeks and she was distraught over it,” Avenatti told CBS. “She’s been deported back to Guatemala.”
At Cayuga, children come for the day to learn in classroom-like settings but sleep at foster homes at night.
The former employee said the facility is severely understaffed given the surge in children in their care. Staffers are bound by strict rules that prohibit them from hugging or touching the children.
“We’re not allowed to know what’s going on with the child. We’re not allowed to ask any of the kids questions,” she said, according to Rachel Maddow. “If the child is not OK, the only thing we’re allowed to ask is, ‘Do you want to speak to your case manager?’”
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