First lady Melania Trump made an unannounced visit to the US-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas on Thursday, a day after her husband signed an executive order to alter his family separation policy, reportedly at least in part due to her prompting.
At an immigration detention center for minors, Trump made brief comments about her goals for the trip.
“I’m here to learn about your facility which I know you house children on a long-term basis,” she said. “And I would also like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible.”
She thanked the workers for their compassion, and said that she was looking forward to seeing the children.
She first asked how many children were in the shelter and how often they were allowed to speak to their families. She was told that there were 55 children there, and that they are allowed to speak on the phone with their families twice a week.
She also asked what the children’s physical and mental states generally are when they arrive. A clinician told her that they often enter very distraught, but calm down when they adjust to their surroundings.
When she asked how long the children stay without their parents, she was told 42-45 days. “That’s great,” she said.
She wanted to clarify that children that arrive truly unaccompanied are between 12 and 17 and that they know where they are. “They’re not young young?” she asked.
After the roundtable, she went on a tour of the facility with the workers.
Soon after, President Donald Trump commented on her trip at his Cabinet meeting. “My wife, first lady, is down now at the border because it really bothered her to be looking at this and seeing it, as it bothered me, as it bothered everybody at this table,” he said.
Melania Trump’s spokeswoman sent a statement upon her arrival.
“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,” she said. “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.”