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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: 1130719

Reported Deaths: 17736
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1468762242
Lake732391255
Allen68004883
Hamilton51739488
St. Joseph50459650
Elkhart40619547
Vanderburgh34963497
Tippecanoe31212276
Johnson27963467
Hendricks26585385
Porter25969387
Madison21318457
Clark20392279
Vigo19244309
LaPorte17405261
Delaware17004303
Howard16942315
Monroe16794220
Kosciusko14447167
Hancock13259186
Bartholomew13180191
Warrick12320190
Wayne12200269
Grant12181247
Floyd12096226
Morgan10552192
Boone9966124
Noble9429123
Marshall9295147
Henry9268169
Dearborn9053100
Dubois8877140
Shelby8402130
Cass8241128
Lawrence8134185
DeKalb7933109
Jackson779993
Huntington7761116
Montgomery7213123
Gibson7179118
Harrison7031100
Knox6958116
Steuben676589
Miami6675114
Whitley667260
Putnam651286
Clinton633179
Wabash6323111
Jasper622192
Jefferson5946105
Ripley565994
Adams547981
Daviess5124118
Scott498980
Wells4894106
White486069
Greene4749101
Clay468662
Decatur4659110
Fayette462597
Jennings457167
LaGrange432291
Posey412944
Randolph4010107
Washington393656
Fountain382264
Fulton368374
Spencer365147
Starke361474
Owen358577
Sullivan351155
Jay336450
Orange335272
Rush314833
Carroll301639
Franklin295244
Perry292853
Vermillion285958
Tipton253367
Parke251630
Pike251244
Blackford224944
Pulaski213759
Newton185052
Brown179750
Benton171717
Crawford170729
Martin152619
Switzerland149412
Warren137816
Union125116
Ohio92913
Unassigned0599

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1735925

Reported Deaths: 26851
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1807941843
Cuyahoga1705042655
Hamilton1146441544
Montgomery811601405
Summit728891210
Lucas637861027
Butler57319814
Stark544971183
Lorain42941645
Warren36238417
Mahoning36168788
Lake32818501
Clermont31601369
Trumbull27766620
Delaware27462185
Licking26929344
Medina26408353
Fairfield24875287
Greene24585373
Clark22391390
Portage21591283
Richland21339342
Wood20348248
Allen19172326
Miami17486352
Columbiana17078335
Muskingum16882207
Wayne15914307
Tuscarawas14631362
Marion13477196
Ashtabula12980237
Erie12832199
Scioto12586188
Pickaway12326155
Ross11824226
Hancock11659175
Geauga11090179
Lawrence10729172
Belmont10548234
Huron9891159
Jefferson9724228
Union966575
Sandusky9465166
Seneca9020161
Knox8893176
Washington8738159
Darke8446181
Athens842897
Ashland8130152
Auglaize8042120
Shelby7575135
Defiance7431117
Crawford7376150
Fulton7284113
Brown7225116
Logan7087111
Guernsey701786
Mercer6964100
Highland6822120
Clinton6554106
Williams655299
Madison653990
Preble6343140
Putnam6300122
Jackson586597
Champaign586187
Perry571279
Coshocton5700108
Ottawa5696102
Morrow524665
Fayette499072
Hardin4960100
Gallia475878
Van Wert470895
Pike468478
Adams4638110
Henry440380
Hocking414293
Holmes4044141
Wyandot379975
Carroll373678
Paulding327551
Meigs307961
Monroe237261
Noble221949
Morgan219439
Harrison216953
Vinton189738
Unassigned06
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After a cold start to the week, warmer air begins to filter back into the region Wednesday.
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