TUCSON, Ariz. (Reuters) – Melania Trump, wife of U.S. President Donald Trump, traveled on Thursday to Arizona for another first-hand look at conditions for children who were brought illegally across the border with Mexico to the United States by their parents.
It was the second trip in a week for the U.S. first lady to see the immigrant children, separated from their parents and caregivers due to the Trump administration crackdown on migrants at the southern border.
Melania Trump had pressured her husband to change his hardline approach after images of distraught immigrant children dominated headlines and drew condemnation in the United States and worldwide.
“She’ll continue to give her husband her opinion on what her thoughts are on family reunification,” her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told reporters traveling on her plane.
In Tucson, the first lady toured a border patrol center where immigrants are brought when they are first detained, Grisham said. She will hold a roundtable discussion with border patrol officers, immigration agents, U.S. marshals and a local rancher.
“She really wants to learn and educate herself about issues on the border. She wants to talk to people on the frontlines and she wants to thank them for their oftentimes dangerous work,” Grisham said.
Since April, more than 2,300 immigrant children were separated from their parents after the Trump administration adopted a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal immigrants, prosecuting all adults who illegally cross the border and separating them from any accompanying children.
Last week, amid pressure from advocacy groups and media reports, Trump softened his tack, ordering families to be held together. Some children have been reunited with their parents, but more than 2,000 remain in detention centers and foster homes.
The Trump administration has said it adopted the family separation policy to protect children from human smuggling, trafficking, and other criminal actions.
HARD TO REUNITE
Immigration lawyers and advocates working with the families have said it has been extremely difficult to reunite the children with their parents, some of whom have already been deported.
Some media reports have said there are few records that demonstrate ties between the children and their parents or caregivers, or that say where the children have been sent.
Additionally, amid a dearth of space for families to be held together, Trump’s administration has asked the U.S. military to provide shelter for as many as 12,000 people. (reut.rs/2N2r4wp)
Earlier this week, a U.S. court blocked the administration from separating families at the border and ordered all children to be reunited with their parents within 30 days. (reut.rs/2yRPiq7)
Asked whether his government would fight the injunction, Trump told reporters on Wednesday: “We’re going to see. But we believe that families should be together also. So there’s not a lot to fight.”
Last Thursday, while visiting a center in McAllen, Texas housing 55 children, mainly from Honduras and El Salvador, Melania Trump said she wanted to see children reunited with their families as quickly as possible.
Her first trip was overshadowed by images of a jacket she wore on and off the plane, which had the words: “I really don’t care, do u?” scrawled on the back.
Boarding her plane for her second trip, the first lady wore white flowing pants with thin black piping along the legs and a plain, fitted black T-shirt with three-quarter length sleeves.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Susan Thomas and Bernadette Baum