LOS ANGELES - Several Central American children separated from parents at the southern US border are heard desperately sobbing and wailing in a recording released Monday by transparency group ProPublica, some so hard they almost cannot breathe.
At least 2,300 of these youngsters have been separated from their parents since April, when President Donald Trump's administration launched its "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
In the past, some migrants entering illegally were caught and then released. Now, the US administration has moved to prosecute anyone who seeks to enter the country illegally, which it says requires the children to be taken away.
"Mommy! I want to go with dad," a young girl is heard crying out on the audio recording, sobbing so hard she is short of breath.
With the volume of the wailing shrill, and coming from multiple kids, a US Border Patrol agent can be heard saying in Spanish: "well, we have quite an orchestra here. The only thing missing is a conductor."
"I don't want them to stop my dad," one little girl is heard saying between sobs.
Another apparently older girl adds: "I don't want to get separated from my dad." The children were mostly from El Salvador and Guatemala, both violence-plagued Central American countries.
The US action has sparked outrage at home -- from both Trump's Democratic foes and his fellow Republicans -- and around the world, as well as concerns from even First Lady Melania Trump.
One utterly distressed Salvadoran girl, which ProPublica said was all of six, can be heard begging authorities to call her aunt.
"I can go home with my auntie, at least," the girl said, proudly explaining that she memorized it. "I have her number. Then after my auntie gets me to bring me home with her, my mom will come as soon as she can, to pick me up."
The audio was recorded last week, according to ProPublica.
The girl's aunt said the experience had been truly difficult.
"Imagine getting a call from your six-year-old niece. She's crying and begging me to come and get her out," the aunt told ProPublica.
"She says 'I promise I will be really good. But please, please get me out of here. I am all alone.'"