Melania Trump’s face brightened as she encountered a 3-year-old boy dashing out of Family Unit 8 at a Tucson, Arizona facility housing those that have been detained for attempting to cross the U.S. Mexico border illegally, The Boston Globe reports.
“Hello!” Melania said, greeting the child amidst a half-moon of eight holding areas in the short-term stay facility. “How are you?”
Melania Trump, both an immigrant to the United States and a mother herself, was interested to see how the detainees were being treated under the care of their respective federal officers. Following a few weeks of viral uproar in social media and mainstream media circles debating the policy merits of separation between migrant adults and children, Melania’s visits continue to spur further discussion.
Melania’s official spokeswoman and director of communications for the First Lady, Stephanie Grisham, said that more visits to the border and further talks with lawmakers surrounding the issue were indeed possible. Grisham did reinforce, however, that the First Lady did believe in the rule of law and the fair application of the law equally to all individuals.
”She cares about children deeply,” Grisham said. ”She also believes in strong border laws and treating everybody equally.”
Not all was positive inside of the detention center, however. Despite the media-ready nature of the visit, some images were bleak nonetheless. The media produced images of cell blocks, waiting lines labeled “Male”, “Families”, “Processed”, and “Unprocessed”. Six blank-faced teen boys sat idly on a bench in front of their cell watching the animated film Ferdinand in Spanish. Also present, a daycare, a temporary home for children under 2-years-old, and a few mothers. The mothers were also minors.
At a round-table talk also held in Tucson, holding a town hall based on testimonies offered up by law enforcement officials intimately familiar with the depth and breadth of the problems surrounding illegal migration over the United States border, Melania Trump asked how many children make the desert trek by themselves, unaccompanied.
One official told her that a teenager was raped on her journey to cross into the United States and gave birth to her child while in federal custody. The Huffington Post reported as of 2015 that about 80 percent of Central American girls and women that attempted to cross the border were subjected to rape. Illegal aliens frequently employ the services of a so-called coyote or human smuggler, according to NPR, and may be put at risk of physical or sexual endangerment in the process.
Another law enforcement official showed the First Lady a photograph of a 6-year-old boy abandoned and crossing the desert alone, holding a half-empty soda can and a note saying he was searching for his mother. SFGate reports that the boy is alive and being taken care of by Border Patrol officials after having been abandoned by his human smuggler.
The White House, using data provided by Customs and Border Protection Agency, state that 80 percent of migrant children arrive at the border unaccompanied.
Whether or not Melania Trump deigns to continue her diplomatic and humanitarian visits to the border detention sites, the issue is sure to take on a familiar partisan divide.
The First Lady came under fire last week for her first visit to the detention centers for his fashion choices. Wearing a military-style olive colored parka from Zara emblazoned with the message “I REALLY DON’T CARE. DO U?” as she boarded the plane bound for the facilities, political critics were quick to pounce. People details the chronicle, which began only a week ago, in sum.
Critics of Melania’s messaging said it was in poor taste, and clearly could be construed as a reference to lacking any empathy for the migrant children. Supporters of the First Lady, including President Trump, claimed that it was either a simple fashion statement or that it was directed at the “fake news” constantly misconstruing and misleading their audience.