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Melania Trump makes surprise visit to border

First lady Melania Trump makes a surprise visit to a child immigrant detention center at the US-Mexico border.

Posted: Jun 22, 2018 10:41 AM
Updated: Jun 22, 2018 10:55 AM

First lady Melania Trump touched down in McAllen, Texas, Thursday for a publicly unannounced and hastily planned trip to get a firsthand look at the crisis affecting immigrant families at the US border.

"I want to thank you for your hard work, your compassion and your kindness," the first lady said at a roundtable briefing at Upbring New Hope Children's Shelter, with doctors and medical staff, social workers and other experts on hand.

"She wants to see what's real," the first lady's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told CNN during a news briefing en route to Texas, explaining Trump's decision to visit.

Trump becomes the first member of the President's inner circle to personally witness the situation that has captured the country's attention. Something else that grabbed attention: the jacket the first lady donned as she left Washington.

She wore an olive green jacket, which said on the back: "I really don't care. Do U?" in white graffiti-style lettering. Trump was not wearing the jacket when she landed in McAllen.

The $39 jacket is last season Zara.

The first lady's team said there was no hidden meaning behind the sartorial choice.

"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," Grisham said.

Touring in Texas

The facility opened to the first lady was of course selected keeping in mind press would be accompanying her. Other such facilities around the country have denied access to Democratic lawmakers and media.

While photos and audio from the unfolding crisis on the border have shown tender age children crying for their parents, Trump, CNN and other members of the media were at a facility with children aged 12-17. The portion of the trip designed to show a family processing facility was canceled due to severe flash flooding in the area.

Upbring New Hope Children's Shelter, part of Lutheran Social Services of the South, is a Department of Health and Human services-overseen facility, which operates with the assistance of HHS funding.

Trump was greeted by Upbring CEO Dr. Kurt Senske, who outlined Upbring's five markers of success: safety, life skills, health, education and vocation. The facility opened in 2014 and currently houses 55 children. Of the children -- 27 boys and 28 girls -- approximately 10% arrived in the United States with their families and have since been separated.

Trump, during a roundtable with officials, asked how often the children speak to their families by telephone, how they are emotionally cared for on arrival and on average how long they stay at the facility before being placed elsewhere.

The first lady stopped to visit with children in three separate classrooms during her tour.

"Where are you from?" she asked several of the kids, along with "How old are you?" and "Have you made friends?"

The children answered, some via a teacher translating from Spanish to English.

The children are "usually distraught" when they arrive, Trump was told by officials, but "when they see the environment, they start relaxing."

Basic needs are taken care of -- showers, clothing, food, medical care.

"The first 24 hours are crucial," a staff member told the first lady.

How children are processed

An administration official briefing the media before the visit said most children at an HHS-funded and regulated facility such as this one remain there for approximately 58 days, receiving medical, dental, vision and psychological care, as well as what the official described as the ability to be inside a "safe and happy environment."

The official emphasized the predominant mission at this stage of the process, for unaccompanied children is to place them back with appropriate sponsors. Those sponsors can be their parents, if the parents are not involved in the judicial or criminal process or they can be other approved family members already living inside the United States.

If neither of those options is possible, which is the case in about 10% of the unaccompanied children, they are placed with vetted foster families or volunteers.

All of this information was something the first lady wanted to learn in person, said Grisham, who told the media Trump informed her staff -- and her husband, President Donald Trump -- that she had decided she needed to see for herself the family intake and unaccompanied children facilities.

The facilities have dominated the news for days on end, causing heated political battles from the White House to Capitol Hill, ricocheting around the world in an uproar of disbelief and consternation.

A readout of the trip from the White House on Thursday night included this statement from the first lady:

"Today's visit impacted me greatly. I was very impressed with the center and the hardworking staff and leadership there -- and thank them for all of their hard work. The children were eager to learn and were kind and in good spirits. Spending time with them reinforces the fact that these kids are in this situation as a direct result of adult actions. 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."

How it came together

" 'I'm headed down to Texas,' " is what Grisham said the first lady told her husband, and "he was supportive."

Grisham confirmed the trip would have taken place whether or not the President had signed an executive order on Wednesday intended to stop the separations.

"This was 100% her idea," said Grisham of Trump's decision to travel to McAllen, making clear the first lady is not on a mission assigned by the President nor is she acting as his emissary. "She wanted to come down."

The first lady intends to inform the President of what she sees.

"She will continue to update her husband," said Grisham, confirming what was reported first Wednesday by CNN, that the first lady had been lobbying the President behind the scenes, encouraging him to stop the separation of children as swiftly as possible, either via legislative process or executive power.

The latter was ultimately the route the President chose, in a stunning reversal of his previous rhetoric.

"As with many topics she will continue to give her husband her opinions," Grisham said.

Like most of the country, the first lady has been watching media reports about children taken from their parents and placed in holding facilities.

It is unclear what, exactly, Trump intends to accomplish from this visit to Texas, outside of seeing firsthand what is happening.

Since becoming first lady, Trump has said she wants to champion helping children, yet has been for the most part vague about how exactly she intends to accomplish her goal. In May, Trump unveiled her "Be Best" platform, which outlined three predominant avenues of focus: health and well-being; kindness and safety online, and highlighting the effects of the opioid crisis on children and families.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 724214

Reported Deaths: 13363
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion989071736
Lake53172962
Allen40223675
Hamilton35354408
St. Joseph35270550
Elkhart28228437
Tippecanoe22297217
Vanderburgh22231396
Porter18560304
Johnson17832376
Hendricks17098313
Clark12897191
Madison12519339
Vigo12379244
Monroe11811168
LaPorte11691210
Delaware10571185
Howard9823215
Kosciusko9347117
Hancock8204139
Bartholomew8036155
Warrick7754155
Floyd7630176
Wayne7002198
Grant6986174
Boone6652101
Morgan6529139
Dubois6139117
Marshall5954111
Dearborn577177
Cass5769105
Henry5671102
Noble555783
Jackson499672
Shelby488196
Lawrence4470120
Gibson433791
Harrison432972
Clinton426353
DeKalb423284
Montgomery423088
Whitley392739
Huntington386380
Steuben381057
Miami379165
Knox370990
Jasper361347
Putnam357760
Wabash352478
Adams340354
Ripley338370
Jefferson328481
White312254
Daviess294399
Wells290281
Decatur282992
Fayette278362
Greene276085
Posey270733
Scott264453
LaGrange263870
Clay258945
Randolph239581
Washington239131
Spencer230431
Jennings228848
Starke213252
Fountain211846
Sullivan210442
Owen195856
Fulton194240
Jay190429
Carroll187820
Perry182537
Orange181854
Rush172625
Vermillion167643
Franklin167235
Tipton161945
Parke145416
Blackford134332
Pike132634
Pulaski115945
Newton106734
Brown101441
Crawford99014
Benton98114
Martin87415
Warren80515
Switzerland7808
Union70610
Ohio56211
Unassigned0413

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1077284

Reported Deaths: 19344
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1251861392
Cuyahoga1110942107
Hamilton796611200
Montgomery511561012
Summit46842933
Lucas41780782
Butler38228580
Stark32099907
Lorain24828480
Warren24214297
Mahoning21403586
Lake20518368
Clermont19704238
Delaware18463131
Licking16373210
Fairfield16083199
Trumbull15966466
Medina15192262
Greene14991244
Clark13927297
Wood13020188
Portage12772201
Allen11564231
Richland11277198
Miami10652215
Muskingum8783132
Wayne8738210
Columbiana8735229
Pickaway8527121
Marion8494135
Tuscarawas8459243
Erie7831154
Hancock6880126
Ross6821152
Ashtabula6756169
Geauga6659148
Scioto6385101
Belmont5828167
Union569347
Lawrence5536102
Jefferson5481151
Huron5409119
Darke5333122
Sandusky5316120
Seneca5248121
Athens518058
Washington5137109
Auglaize487084
Mercer479085
Shelby466893
Knox4472110
Madison434761
Putnam4260100
Ashland420989
Fulton419869
Defiance416597
Crawford3954106
Brown391857
Logan380676
Preble378298
Clinton369861
Ottawa365779
Highland352761
Williams337075
Champaign329258
Guernsey314453
Jackson311651
Perry294250
Morrow283639
Fayette280649
Hardin269864
Henry267766
Coshocton263858
Holmes2587101
Van Wert242463
Pike237233
Adams235852
Gallia235148
Wyandot230654
Hocking214662
Carroll190947
Paulding171140
Meigs144339
Noble133437
Monroe130642
Morgan108223
Harrison107337
Vinton82015
Unassigned02
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Shower and thunderstorm chances increase Thursday afternoon.
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