1st Lady Visits Migrant Children in TX 06/22 06:09
McALLEN, Texas (AP) -- Melania Trump visited with migrant children Thursday
during a brief stop at a Texas facility housing some of the youth separated
from their parents as her husband's administration prosecutes adults who enter
the U.S. illegally from Mexico.
The first lady, who has a 12-year-old son, smiled and laughed with the
migrant children. "Be kind and nice to each other, OK," she said as she left
one classroom at Upbring New Hope Children's Center and headed for another.
Plans for her to visit a second facility where children housed in cages were
seen by The Associated Press last week were canceled because of flooding there.
The first lady said in a written statement after she returned to the White
House that the visit had "impacted me greatly." She called on Congress to work
together on immigration legislation that would benefit the children.
"Spending time with them reinforces the fact that these kids are in this
situation as a direct result of adult actions," she said. "It is my hope that
Members of Congress will finally reach across the aisle and work together to
solve this problem with common sense immigration reform that secures our
borders and keeps families together."
The first lady's stop in McAllen came one day after President Donald Trump
ordered a halt, at least for now, to the separation of immigrant families who
are detained at the border.
Her visit to the one-story, red brick building was quickly arranged after
Mrs. Trump decided earlier this week that she wanted to go, her spokeswoman
said, adding that she wanted to lend support to children who have been
separated from their parents. The facility housed 55 boys and girls, ages
12-17, on Thursday, but only about six of them had been separated from parents,
officials said. The other children were placed there after they crossed into
the U.S. alone.
"I'm here to learn about your facility," the first lady said as she met with
staff and federal health and border patrol officials. She asked how she could
help "these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible" and
how often they communicate with their families. She learned the children are
allowed a 10-minute phone call twice a week.
Students welcomed her with a large paper American flag taped to a wall that
they'd signed. The words, "Welcome! First Lady" were written in black marker
across the red and white bars. Mrs. Trump, herself an immigrant from Slovenia,
signed the flag and gifted it back to the center.
She visited three classrooms, each time asking the children where they came
from, their ages, how long they'd been at the center and their favorite
subjects. Staff said the children, who are mostly from Guatemala, typically
spend between 42 and 45 days at the facility, which is operated by a Lutheran
social services organization contracted by the government.
The children are often distraught when they arrive, staff said, but they
reassured Mrs. Trump the youth are quickly assessed for any physical or mental
health issues and are well-cared for. The children attend school five days a
week and have access to a variety of activities.
"We see them as if they were our own," said Roy De La Cerda, the program
Mrs. Trump left Washington wearing a green, hooded military jacket that had
"I really don't care, do u?" written in graffiti-style on the back in white
lettering that left the blogosphere wondering what message she was trying to
send as she flew off to visit migrant children.
Asked about the message, spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said by email that it
was just a jacket.
"There was no hidden message. After today's important visit to Texas, I hope
the media isn't going to choose to focus on her wardrobe." Grisham underscored
that message with a tweet and the hashtags #SheCares and #ItsJustAJacket.
Mrs. Trump had changed into a pale yellow jacket before arriving in McAllen
and wore that during the more than hour-long visit to the center, but donned
the green jacket once again as she returned to the White House. She went
straight to the Oval Office to brief the president, who later tweeted that the
jacket's message referred to her feelings about the "Fake News Media."
The president had come under withering pressure to stop separating migrant
families, including from the first lady, following a public outcry sparked by
widespread government-distributed images of children held in fence-like
Some 2,300 migrant children have been separated from their families since
May, according to the government.
Mrs. Trump reached her decision to make Thursday's trip before the
president's executive order to keep families together was in the works.
"She told her staff she wanted to go and we made that happen," Grisham said.
"She told him 'I am headed down to Texas' and he was supportive."
Mrs. Trump, whose focus as first lady is on child well-being, appears to
have been among those pushing him to act.
Grisham released a statement last weekend saying the first lady "hates" to
see children separated from their families and "believes we need to be a
country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."
Shortly before Trump signed the executive order, a White House official
revealed that Mrs. Trump had been voicing her opinion to the president for some
time. The official refused to be identified discussing Trump's private
conversations with his wife.