Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) clashed with Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga. ) on Friday during a congressional session after he played the audio recording of crying children who had been separated from their parents and kept in a U.S. federal detention facility.
The heartbreaking audio, previously released by ProPublica, allegedly captured the reactions of children as they were being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.Lieu incorporated the recording as he spoke out against the government’s harsh border control policy.
“If the Statue of Liberty could cry, she would be crying today,” Lieu opened his remark. “As I stand here there are 2,300 babies and kids who are ripped away from their parents by our government and are in detention facilities across America.”
While U.S. President Donald Trump has since signed an executive order that would keep newly migrant families detained together during the criminal proceedings, the fates of the more than 2,000 children already isolated from their families remain in question.
“America was a country founded by people fleeing persecution. We were a land of immigrants,” Lieu said. “Unfortunately, Donald Trump and Homeland Secretary [Kirstjen] Nielsen have perverted that grand legacy and have now engaged in a functional equivalent of kidnapping.”
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“Imagine being a child, when you were young, when your parents were likely the most important people in your life, imagine being ripped away from your mother and father, and not knowing if you’re ever going to see them again. And being placed in a detention facility with strangers,” Lieu continued.
“What must that sound like?” Lieu asked, before the cries of children started to play in the background.
The recording, which is filled with loud cries for “Mami” and “Papi,” was playing for about 35 seconds when Handel, the presiding officer at the time in the House, ordered Lieu to stop the recording, accusing him of being “in breach of a quorum.”
In response, Lieu said: “These are babies and kids at the detention facility. Why do you not let the American people hear what they are saying?”
Handel then started banging her gavel, ordering Lieu to end his speech.
“Will the gentleman suspend, per rule 17 of the House?” she asked.
After Lieu refused, Handel warned that “the sergeant in arms will enforce the rules of decorum.”
Lieu eventually yielded the floor a few minutes later.