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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 
director.

   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 
structures.

   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.


(KA)

 
 
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