22 Jun 2018

Melania Trump visits child detention centre

1:27 pm on 22 June 2018

US First Lady Melania Trump has made an unannounced visit to a Texas centre for some of the migrant children sent there by the US government, after their families were detained for crossing the border illegally.

MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 21: U.S. first lady Melania Trump traveled to Texas to see first hand the condition and treatment that migrant children taken from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border are receiving from the federal government.

US first lady Melania Trump visits the Upbring New Hope Children's Center in McAllen Photo: AFP

Mrs Trump visited the Upbring New Hope Children's Center in McAllen, near the Mexico border.

She left the White House quietly in the morning and flew to Texas for the unannounced visit, a day after Mr Trump signed an executive order keeping families crossing into the United States illegally from Mexico together.

He ordered that children be held with their parents while they are detained on charges of crossing the border illegally.

Mr Trump reversed his tough stance on separating families after days of outrage over the policy from at home and abroad.

However the fate of hundreds of undocumented children taken from parents remains unclear.

Jacket criticised: 'I really don't care, do you'

U.S. first lady Melania Trump (C) climbs back into her motorcade after traveling to Texas to visit facilities that house and care for children taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border June 21, 2018 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

US First Lady Melania Trump enters her motorcade after travelling to Texas to visit facilities housing children taken from their parents. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images / AFP

Mrs Trump was criticised for wearing a jacket saying "I really don't care, do you", but has denied the words suggested she was insincere in her concern about migrant families.

Mrs Trump did not wear the jacket while talking to the children.

Her spokesperson said it was just a jacket, with no hidden message.

Mrs Trump's visit to Texas facility

The trip to Texas was the most high-profile public appearance Mrs Trump had made since undergoing a surgical procedure for a benign kidney condition on 14 May. The procedure prompted her to drop largely out of sight for several days.

The first lady met with officials and employees at the facility, where 55 children aged 12 to 17 are housed.

Six of them were separated from their parents upon crossing the border, authorities told reporters.

Mrs Trump sat alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a table at Upbring New Hope Children's Center and heard caregivers explain how the children are well treated.

She asked many questions, seeking assurances that they are being properly cared for.

"I'm glad I'm here and I'm looking forward to seeing and meeting children, but first of all let me begin to recognize each of you and thanking you for all that you do, for your heroic work that you do every day and what you do for those children," Melania Trump said.

"I'd also like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible," she said.

Later, she toured a section of the facility where the children have bedrooms and was told they maintain their own rooms.

She visited a schoolroom at Upbring and chatted with about 20 young girls and boys who had school folders on their desks.

She spoke to many individually through a translator, and as she walked out she told them: "Be kind and nice to each other, OK? Nice to meet you."

In one classroom, children were being taught about the July Fourth Independence Day holiday.

On the wall was a handpainted American flag and the children signed it. The first lady signed it as well.

In signing the executive order to reverse the separation policy on Wednesday, Trump cited his daughter and his wife.

"Ivanka feels very strongly, my wife feels very strongly about it, I feel very strongly about it. I think anybody with a heart would feel very strongly about it. We don't like to see families separated," Trump said.

Melania's trip to Texas was cut short by heavy rain and flash flooding.

- Reuters / BBC

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