Washington, DC – The US First Lady had to scrap her surprise visit to Border Patrol facility due to flooding but Melania Trump spent roughly 75 minutes at the Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is traveling with her.
According to the figures provided by officials, 55 children at the moment in the facility. 27 boys, 28 girls. Ages vary from 12 to 17. Most are from Guatemala. Also the officials noted that all but 6 were unaccompanied minors, with the rest having been separated.
Visit to 3 Classrooms
The first lady interacted with dozens of kids, visiting three classrooms. There was no permission to have any audio or photos of these interactions.
In classroom #1, Melania Trump shook hands. There was laughter and lots of smiles. Three girls in the back row, hairs in buns, were smiling a lot. A boy in the front row had a Spanish-English dictionary in front of him. Many of the kids wore gray T-shirts that said “We Are One” with we in red, are in white and one in blue.
The First Lady asked individually where they were from, how long they’d been there. She spoke in English. Some responded in English. Others, the teacher translated for Mrs. Trump.
“How long are you here? … Where are you from?” the First Lady asked and to kids in a row together “Are you all friends?” As she left she said, “Be kind and nice to other, ok? Nice to meet you.” And then she helped them resume their counting exercise they’d been doing before she got there, chanting “62, 63, 64, 65.”
In classroom #2, next door, the children were learning about angles and lines. The teacher explained a contest to build model bridges to Melania Trump. Kids worked in groups of four and whichever bridge held the most weight wins. “Bubye. Good luck,” the First Lady said. The kids applauded as she left.
There were about 22 kids per classrooms 1 and 2.
In classroom 3, a poster of US presidents that went through George W. Bush was on the wall to the right of the door. A hand painted US flag covered the white wipe board. It read “Welcome! First lady”
The board indicated this was ELA class. Objectives include practicing the alphabet, days of the week, and names of the months. 12 kids in this room. All girls. She asked where they were from. One said she’d been here for two months. Another told her they were learning how to celebrate the Fourth of July.
The First Lady asked what kinds of music they like in this classroom 3. “They like to dance a lot,” the teacher said. When the First Lady asked for a demonstration but then laughed. “This is a serious class … so study hard” and be kind to each other. Friendship she said “is very important.”
They each signed the flag to give to her. Aides began to roll it up but the plan changed when the First Lady herself signed it before leaving, and left behind as a gift. They each had closed laptops on the table in front of them.
Melania Trump, wearing white pants, white top, white sneakers, sunglasses, and a green jacket, boarded the Air Force plane, a C-32A, which is designated “Executive One Foxtrot.”
On the back of the jacket Melania Trump wore as she boarded her plane read: “I really don’t care. Do U?” in white lettering that looks like broad paint strokes.
Asked about the jacket, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director told journalists traveling by email: “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.” She added: “(Much like her high heels last year).”
Grisham Elaborates on the Visit
Earlier Grisham spoke to journalists shortly after takeoff from the Andrews Air Force base. On the question of if the First Lady had seen the images coming out of those facilities, Grisham nodded yes saying, “She’s seen the images. She’s heard the recordings … She was on top of the situation before any of that came out. She was concerned about it.”
Noting that images of kids behind chain link fence were at an intake facility where kids were only held briefly., Grisham said, “The images struck her (the First Lady), as a mother, as a human being.”
Grisham noted that the trip was Melania Trump’s idea, even before President Trump had signed the executive order. The First Lady asked her staff on Tuesday to plan a trip as soon as possible – before the president signed the executive order, though Grisham wasn’t sure if First Lady had an inkling that the order was coming.
“I don’t know what she knew. She knew what she wanted to do and she told us,” Grisham said. “She wanted to see everything for herself … She supports family reunification. She thinks that it’s important that children stay with their families,” Grisham continued.
“This was 100 percent her idea. She absolutely wanted to come,” Grisham said, adding that the First Lady had no second thoughts after the order was signed. “She wants to see what’s happening for herself and she wants to lend her support, executive order or not. The executive order certainly is helping pave the way a little bit, but there’s still a lot to be done,” added Grisham.
Grisham clarified that President Trump supported this trip but he didn’t send her. “This was her decision. She told her staff she wanted to go and we made that happen. He is supportive of it but she told him, `I’m headed down to Texas,’ and he supported it,” explained Grisham.
On a question that the First lady was doing the trip in order to persuade the president to do anything differently?, Grisham said, “She wants to see these children and she wants to help children. It’s not about anything more than that … She wants to see what’s real. She wants to see a realistic view.”
On the subject of the executive order and how and when it’s implemented, Grisham said, “While we’re going through that process she’s going to lend her support and promote family reunification and I’m sure she’ll continue to give her husband opinions on what she’s thinking along the way.”
Grisham said the First Lady supports reunifying families that are currently separated but doesn’t have a deadline in mind: “The executive order was signed yesterday. Guidance has to be given to a lot of the agencies. She’s going to be talking to Secretary Azar and Secretary Nielsen … I’m sure she’s going to continue to give her husband opinions on what she’s thinking should happen.”
“I’m sure she’ll continue to let her husband know her opinions. She does that often,” Grisham said, reiterating that the First Lady definitely wants to see the kids reunited: “She’ll do everything she can and she’ll speak her opinions as much as she can.”
The First Lady had originally planned to tour two facilities, both in McAllen: 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. But heavy rain caused a last-minute change of plans, with flooding at the Border Patrol center and the group headed to the children’s center.