As the immigration crisis taking place at the U.S.-Mexico border continues to unfold, the first lady has already expressed her discomfort with what has been taking place. But according to a new report by The Washington Post, Melania Trump also urged Trump to end family separations, an unusual move for a person who tends to avoid the political spotlight.
"She has become even more vocal about her thoughts and opinions on the topic," an unnamed White House official told the Post on Wednesday. An unnamed official also said that "from the start, Mrs. Trump has been encouraging the president to do all he can to keep families together."
Previously, Melania had said through her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, that she hoped Democrats and Republicans would work together to solve family separations.
"Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform," Grisham told CNN on Sunday. "She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."
On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order that would end family separations taking place at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, he also said that the administration would continue to enforce a so-called "zero tolerance policy" which mandates that every undocumented person caught illegally crossing the border be prosecuted.
Instead of separating families, the executive order moves to "detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings."
According to the order, Sec. Nielsen will "maintain custody of alien families" while they await judicial procedures." Until the order was signed, separated children were turned over to the Office for Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The family separations began to take place at an alarming rate after the Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the "zero tolerance policy" in May.
On May 4, DHS Press Secretary Tyler Houlton released a statement announcing the new policy. "If you enter our country illegally, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution," he said. He continued:
DHS has zero tolerance for those who break the law and will no longer exempt classes or groups of individuals from prosecution. Whether you are a single adult or an adult member of a family unit, if you are apprehended you will be prosecuted and put in removal proceedings.
Several days later, Sessions made a similar announcement. In a speech, he said that if anyone is caught "smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law."
On Tuesday, DHS officials said that 2,342 children were separated from their parents along the border between May 5 and June 9, according to The Washington Post. That averaged out to about 65 children separated from their families each day.
Children are not allowed to be held in jails. Because of this, the so-called "zero-tolerance policy," which requires that all adults caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border face prosecution, resulted in thousands of children being taken away from their families. The children were reclassified as unaccompanied alien children and handed over to HHS.
From there, children were moved into various detention centers, which politicians and journalists have had limited access to. Accounts of prison-like conditions, and of infants being held in cages, which many have dubbed "baby jails," have fanned flames of outrage across both the United States and the world.
Though Trump has signed this executive order, it is not clear yet what will happen to those families that have already been separated. It is also not clear how the administration will meet the need for housing families together.