The First Lady Melania Trump went to McAllen, Texas, on an unannounced trip to tour two border detention facilities.
Melania Trump planned to tour two facilities, both in McAllen, Texas: The Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center, a Customs and Border Patrol/DHS intake center where migrant families spend a few days, and Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter
, part of Lutheran Social Services. That’s an HHS grantee facility that currently houses about 60 kids, ages five to 17, from Honduras and El Salvador. Mostly teens, they are about evenly split between boys and girls. Only six of these kids were separated from parents, and the rest arrived as unaccompanied minors, according to a “senior administration official.” The shelter opened in 2014 in a facility that had been a vacant nursing home and assisted living facility.
A press pool was traveling with the first lady, including wires, stills and TV. Ground rules included secrecy until FLOTUS arrived at her first stop in Texas. The pool wasn’t told what city they were going to until after takeoff. No photos or audio were allowed, for the safety and privacy of children.
At Andrews, Mrs. Trump boarded the plane wearing white pants, white top, white sneakers, sunglasses, and a green jacket. The first lady and her entourage arrived in a driving rain at the shelter around 11:15 am CT.
She had a brief tour before joining a number of shelter staff and homeland security and HHS officials at a briefing. She was seated, with HHS Secretary Alex Azar to her right.
The Frist Lady Melania Trump thanked them for doing “heroic work… I’m here to learn about your facility…. I also like to ask you how I can help to be sure these children reunite with their families as quickly as possible.” She asked how often kids get to speak with their parents or family. Program director Rogelio De La Cerda Jr did a lot of the talking and led her on the tour.
“When the children come here, what kind of physical and mental state they are at?” Mrs. Trump asked.
She was told that most of the kids are from Guatemala. “Usually when they get here they’re very distraught,” one official said. “When they see the environment and they see the art” on the walls they settle down.
The facility has the feel of an old nursing home but also of a small elementary school.
Behind FLOTUS on the wall: a “Kindness tree: Acts of Kindness make me bloom” with leaves presumably showcasing acts of kindness kids have done.
Melania Trump: “They are scared without their families. And I want to thank you for your hard work, your compassion and your kindness, you’re giving them in this difficult time. I’m here to learn about your facility, and — which I know you have children on a long-term basis. And I’d also like to ask you how I can help to –these children, to reunite with their families, as quickly as possible.”
FLOTUS’ motorcade returned to her plane at 12:40 PM CT
at the McAllen airport. Light steady rain. She posed for photos with Border Patrol agents who helped with the visit, and then separately for photos with local law enforcement. She boarded at 12:44
, heading back to Joint Base Andrews.
At the shelter, she ignored a shouted question from a pooler asking for her view on President Trump’s reported update to the zero-tolerance policy.