Hear a detention center official in leaked audio warning migrant children not to talk to reporters

The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBCAttorney Michael Avenatti speaks to Rachel Maddow about audio and photos from inside a child shelter for immigrants leaked by one of his clients.
  • Leaked audio from a detention facility for immigrant children reveals a worker warning children not to talk to the press.
  • The audio, along with photos from inside the facility, were leaked to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow by an anonymous whistleblower who worked at the facility.
  • Thousands of young children separated from their parents by the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy are in shelters all over the country with no idea where their parents are.

In footage shot by a former employee of a detention center where immigrant children are held and leaked to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, a worker can be heard cautioning children in Spanish that talking to the press could jeopardize their cases.

“If for whatever reason you tell a reporter – you know what’s going to happen to your case? It’s going to be on the news – and then one doesn’t know what is going to happen,” the employee warned, according to MSNBC’s translation. “I am not trying to scare you. I am just telling you, it’s the truth.”

The audio, as well as pictures from inside the facility, were provided to MSNBC by a former teacher at a shelter in New York who leaked it on the condition of anonymity.

The teacher was represented by attorney Michael Avenatti, who is providing legal counsel to whistleblowers from law enforcement agencies or shelters involved in processing and caring for children held in shelters. Avenatti is also representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, with whom he allegedly had an affair.

“You have to be careful not to talk. Because while you are here, you guys are ok,” the worker continued. “We are trying to help you so that you can reunify with your family or whoever it be. Understood?”

The employee also leaked photographs from inside the facility. The pictures, which are the first non-government photos from inside a child detention facility, show children, whose faces are blurred, in a classroom-type setting and sitting around a table eating food off paper plates.

In a statement read by Maddow on air, the worker said, “I am here today because I feel like it’s important to make a difference. It is time for everyone to stand up and stop being afraid and actually help these children that are being separated from their parents.”

The anonymous employee added that the facility at which she worked mostly housed older teenagers who arrived in the US unaccompanied.

But in the last two months, she described an “influx” of younger children who arrived there after being separated from their parents as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which prosecuted parents who crossed the border illegally with children.

While the administration has since ended prosecuting parents for illegal entry, there are still thousands of children in shelters all over the country who have not been reunited with their families.

The employee described seeing young children distressed over not knowing the whereabouts of their parents “heartbreaking.”

“We’re not allowed to hug the kids, we’re not allowed to touch them at all,” she said in her statement. “I decided not to follow that rule this week. This week I hugged them. I don’t care anymore.”

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