First Lady Melania Trump made a surprise visit to the U.S.-Mexican border Thursday, as her husband’s administration seeks to quell a firestorm over migrant family separations.
President Donald J. Trump first announced the trip by his wife, who was touring a non-profit social services center for migrant children, before heading to a customs and border patrol processing center, according to a statement from her office.
The first lady landed in McAllen, Texas under a heavy downpour, her motorcade driving through deep water as it headed for the Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter, a federally-funded facility that houses around 60 children from Honduras and El Salvador, ages five to 17.
Her visit comes a day after Trump, in a stunning about-face, took executive action to end the practice of separating migrant families at the border, the result of a “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal border crossers.
“I’m glad I’m here and I’m looking forward to seeing the children,” Melania Trump said at a roundtable discussion with social workers and government officials.
“I would also like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible.”
Melania Trump: When the children come here, what kind of state, physical and mental state, do they come here in?
"Usually when they get here, they are very distraught, in the sense that they don’t know where they’re at…The first 24 hours are crucial for us," staff member says pic.twitter.com/bOm0VsyY6s
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 21, 2018
Images and recordings of wailing children detained in cage-like enclosures has ignited global outrage, and Melania Trump herself had called for a political compromise to end the separations.
“This was 100 percent her idea. She absolutely wanted to come,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, told reporters travelling with her to Texas.
“She wanted to see everything for herself,” Grisham said. “She supports family reunification. She thinks that it’s important that children stay with their families.”
FLOTUS spox confirms Mrs. Trump wore a jacket to visit border kids that reads: "I really don't care. Do you?" Spox says: "It's 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." pic.twitter.com/Bp4Z8n455G
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 21, 2018
Despite Trump’s executive order, there was no immediate plan in place to reunite the more than 2,300 children separated from their families since early May.
“The executive order certainly is helping pave the way a little bit, but there’s still a lot to be done,” Grisham said.
Melania Trump asks the detention center workers about how long the immigrant children are separated from their families pic.twitter.com/kfXFvWTMHv
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) June 21, 2018