Anti-immigration hawks sometimes propose "self-deportation," wherein the government makes life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they voluntarily leave the country. Speaking on The View Friday, Republican commentator Ana Navarro said Melania Trump wants to "self-deport" from the White House."
Melania Trump visited the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday to tour a child migrant facility, one of several in the spotlight after the administration established its family separation policy earlier this year. The hosts of The View discussed the meaning of Trump's visit, and debated whether she was executing a savvy public relations move or, alternatively, trolling her husband. Navarro, a Republican and longtime Donald Trump opponent, had another theory.
“We all know that this is a very complicated marriage,” Navarro, a regular commentator on CNN, said. “I thought she was trying to self-deport from the White House." Melania Trump is a Slovenian-born immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 2006.
The View co-host Sarah Haines made a similar suggestion to Navarro's on Friday's show, quipping that the first lady's visit to the border was "the most awkward beginning to divorce proceedings I've ever seen."
Not everyone on the show agreed, however. Joy Behar was convinced that the White House "sent her there" as a show of empathy for the detained children, while Meghan McCain opined that Trump's visit was "damage control, but it's effective."
"She's by far the most popular Trump," McCain explained, at which point Navarro pointed out that this is a "low bar" to pass. A poll taken in mid-June found that Melania Trump's job approval sits at 51 percent. The president, by contrast, currently has a 45 percent approval rating, according to Gallup, while his daughter Ivanka Trump's approval was at 47 percent in May.
"I think that she has the potential to do some damage control," McCain said of Melania Trump. "Is it going to fix this? No, of course not. But I think it could be effective."
Trump raised eyebrows during her visit to the border, however, for wearing a jacket that said "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" in big letters on the back. In an email to Bustle, the first lady's spokesperson said that there's no "hidden message" to the jacket, though she didn't address the large, visible message on the jacket.
The View's Sunny Hostin was thoroughly convinced that Trump went to the border without clearing it with the president first, and that she was "trolling her husband."
"You don't think they sent her there?" Behar asked her co-host.
"No," Hostin replied. "I think she's trolling him."
The concept of "self-deportation" was popularized, in part, by Mitt Romney, who promoted the idea during his 2012 presidential campaign.
"People decide that they can do better by going home because they can't find work here, because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here," Romney explained at a Republican debate. "And so we're not going to round people up."
Many criticized the former Massachusetts governor for proposing what was then seen as a draconian, unforgiving approach to immigration. Reince Priebus, then the chair of the Republican National Committee, called the proposal "horrific" in 2013, while Donald Trump himself said the idea was "maniacal" and claimed that it cost Romney votes in the general election. Priebus went on to serve as President Trump's first chief of staff in the White House, while Trump went on to approve an immigration policy that resulted in children getting separated from their parents and put into cages.
After widespread condemnation, Trump relented on Wednesday and signed an executive order that ostensibly ends family separation. Experts cautioned, however, that the language of the executive order is vague, and could allow some form of family separation to continue.