First Lady Melania Trump Makes Trip To Visit Border Detention Facilities

Updated at 3:07 p.m. ET

First lady Melania Trump made an unannounced trip to the southern U.S. border Thursday to visit children who entered the country illegally, and see the centers where they are being detained.

The trip comes a day after President Trump signed an executive order ending his controversial policy of family separation for migrant families detained as they’re crossing into the U.S. illegally at the southern border.

“She wanted to see everything for herself,” said Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director. “She supports family reunification. She thinks that it’s important that children stay with their families.”

She, along with first daughter Ivanka Trump, lobbied the president to reverse his administration’s family separation policy, NPR reported on Wednesday.

The first lady planned to visit two facilities, both in McAllen, Texas.

Her first visit, according to the White House pool reporters traveling with the first lady, was to Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter and lasted about 75 minutes.

The shelter is a Health and Human Services Department grantee facility run by Lutheran Social Services of the South, and it’s part of a network of 32 state-licensed facilities in Texas, according to the Center for Investigative Journalism. CIJ says the center had 12 health and safety violations over the past three years.

The kids the first lady visited there were aged 12-17, and most crossed into the U.S. as unaccompanied minors, but six of the children were separated from their families upon being detained.

When Mrs. Trump visited, the kids were in the middle of classes. She shook hands with children and asked kids where they were from and how long they’d been there.

“Be kind and nice to other, OK? Nice to meet you,” she said as she left one classroom. Kids applauded her when she left another one, and she left behind a signed American flag when she left the shelter.

Her second scheduled stop was to the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center, a Customs and Border Patrol intake center.

A Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News that the Ursula facility was the “epicenter” of the Trump administration’s policy that separated more than 2,000 kids from their parents over the past few months.

Intake centers, like Ursula, are where many viral images of people in chain-link enclosures originated from. Migrants typically spend a few days in these types of intake facilities, before being transferred.

As the controversy grew nationally in the past week over the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when they were detained at the southern border, administration officials, and conservative media outlets have been arguing that the living conditions of detained immigrants aren’t as bad as traditional media outlets were portraying.

“No one wants to separate families but Americans should rest assured that minors who are referred to [federal government] funded facilities are well cared for,” tweeted HHS Secretary Alex Azar Wednesday evening.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham said the detention facilities “are essentially summer camps,” on her show on Monday, whereas former first lady Laura Bush said they were “eerily reminiscent” of World War II Japanese internment camps in a Washington Post column on Sunday.

Mrs. Trump was going to visit the facilities herself, her spokeswoman said, because “she wants to see what’s real. She wants to see a realistic view.”

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