First Lady Melania Trump on Thursday visited a child detention center in Texas that holds undocumented minors after a chaotic couple of weeks following the implementation of a policy which began in 1997 but has been enforced with “zero tolerance” by her husband’s administration that directed migrant families to be separated at the border by the government.
Trump came to the Upbring New Hope Children’s Center following reports that she helped sway the president to act in the wake of a days-long controversy surrounding the effects of the Department of Justice’s “zero tolerance” policy, Fox News reports.
The first lady said earlier through her spokeswoman that she “hates” to see families separated at the border.
“We all know they are here without their families and I want to thank you for your hard work, compassion and kindness you are giving them in these difficult times,” Trump told a roundtable of workers at the Texas center.
The first lady’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, further explained the purpose of the trip, saying in a statement that “First Lady Melania Trump has arrived in Texas to take part in briefings and tours at a nonprofit social services center for children who have entered the United States illegally and a customs and border patrol processing center.”
“Her goals are to thank law enforcement and social services providers for their hard work, lend support and hear more on how the administration can build upon the already existing efforts to reunite children with their families,” the statement added.
According to White House pool reports, Trump toured two facilities run by the Department of Homeland Security during her trip to McAllen, the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center, a Customs and Border Patrol intake center, and Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter, a Health and Human Services grantee facility that currently houses about 60 kids (ages 5-17, though mostly teens) from Honduras and El Salvador.
“She wanted to see everything for herself,” Grisham told pool reporters. “She wants to see these children and she wants to help children,” Grisham said, before adding “she wants to see what’s real. She wants to see a realistic view.”
Trump spent a little over an hour with the mostly Guatemalan children at the Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter, all 55 of them. All but six of the children were unaccompanied minors, with the rest having been separated from their families, according to pool reports. She asked the children questions like: “How long are you here?” “Where are you from?” and “Are you all friends?” As she left one classroom, she told the children, “Bye. Good luck.”
The trip was “100 percent [the first lady’s] idea,” Grisham said.
President Donald Trump kicked off his campaign in June of 2015 by making blanket statements about immigrants, more specifically Mexicans, falsely casting the majority of Mexican immigrants as criminals. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” then-candidate Trump said. He’s called MS-13 gang members “animals” in a continuation of what many critics believe are statements that can actually dehumanize all migrants and not just the violent ones. Just this week, he tweeted, without citing any evidence, that the Democrats “don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country.” Trump wants Congress to provide $25 billion of funding upfront for his proposed border wall along the southern border. During the campaign, he insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall.