First lady Melania Trump made an unannounced trip to the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday in order to get a first hand glimpse at the crisis effecting immigrant families. Photos of Melania's border visit, which included a tour of a children's detention center in South Texas, show the usually private and low-profile first lady take a giant leap into the spotlight.
"First Lady Melania Trump has arrived in Texas to take part in briefings and tours at a nonprofit social services center for children who have entered the United States illegally and a customs and border patrol processing center," Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's director of communications, said in a statement released after Trump arrived in Texas. "Her goals are to thank law enforcement and social services providers for their hard work, lend support and hear more on how the administration can build upon the already existing efforts to reunite children with their families."
Trump joined Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in touring Upbring New Hope Children's Shelter in McAllen, Texas, to get a better idea of how children are being detained. According to Politico, the shelter is currently housing 58 immigrant children. However, the majority of the children detained at Upbring New Hope Children's Shelter are believed to be unaccompanied minors and not children forcibly separated from their families as a result of the Trump administration's controversial "zero tolerance" policy, NBC News has reported.
As part of her visit, the first lady also met and spoke with shelter staff during a question and answer roundtable session. "I'm here to learn about facility to which I know you housed children on a long term basis," Trump said during the session, according to NBC News. "And I also like to ask you how I can help to these children reunite with their families as quickly as possible."
Trump's visit comes just one day after her husband signed an executive order that would reportedly stop the administration's policy of separating families without ending its "zero-tolerance" immigration policy. Under the executive order, families apprehended illegally entering the country can now be detained at detention centers together. Families with children will also now be given precedence in immigration proceedings.
When signing the executive order Wednesday, President Trump said he'd been influenced by his wife and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who he said both felt "very strongly" about keeping families together. Melania Trump appeared to speak out against the administration's controversial policy Sunday via comments issued through her communications director.
"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 said in an appearance on CNN Sunday. "She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."
Grisham told reporters Thursday that Trump had not been "sent" to the border for a photo op by the president but rather that the trip had "100 percent" been the first lady's idea.
In fact, according to Grisham, Trump had asked her staff to arrange the visit prior to the president signing his executive order ending family separation. "She knew what she wanted to do and she told us," Grisham said, according to USA Today. "She wanted to see everything for herself."
Grisham went on to say that the first lady "supports family reunification" and "thinks that it's important that children stay with their families" and not be separated. "She wants to see these children and she wants to help children," Grisham told reporters traveling in the first lady's press pool. "It's not about anything more than that. ... She wants to see what's real. She wants to see a realistic view."