In her second visit to a center holding traumatized migrant children Thursday, first lady Melania Trump didn’t try to distract attention from their plight by sending some kind of veiled, impertinent message with her wardrobe choices.
That means, the self-styled children’s advocate didn’t wear a jacket with words on the back that could be interpreted as meaning she doesn’t really care about the suffering of children who had been detained under her husband’s zero-tolerance policy for undocumented immigrants trying to enter the United States.
Last week, President Donald Trump’s wife touched off a political firestorm after she traveled to a detention center in McAllen, Texas wearing an attention-grabbing khaki-colored jacket with these words on the back: “I really don’t care, do u?”
For her trip to Tucson, Arizona, she instead she stuck to unadorned basics — plain black top and white pants — for what the White House billed as a serious conversation with officials about housing conditions for children and their families.
When the first lady arrived in Tucson, she hopped into a car and was driven to a local Customs and Border Patrol facility for a roundtable discussion with officials from the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service, USA Today reported.
During last week’s visit, Melania Trump visited a shelter that is used to house older unaccompanied minors until they can be placed with family or volunteers. On Thursday, she was scheduled to visit a facility that receives children and families immediately after they are detained while trying to cross the border.
During her meeting with officials, she said, “I know how dangerous and difficult your daily jobs are, so I really appreciate all you do on behalf of the country. And I’m looking forward to our discussion and to tour the facility. I’m here to support you. And give my help. Whatever I can for behalf of the children and the families. Thank you for having me.”
WATCH: First lady Melania Trump visits a border facility in Arizona, a week after President Trump signed an executive order to end family separations https://t.co/0R9VVqWHZz pic.twitter.com/MWiWoeIlh9
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 28, 2018
For the past seven weeks, the Trump administration has enforced a “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which forcibly separated children from their parents at the border. Some 2,000 children have been detained under this policy, including babies and toddlers. Doctors who have visited facilities holding these children said the conditions are extremely troubling and could trigger long-term health consequences, the Huffington Post reported.
After mounting pressure, President Trump signed an executive order reversing his administration’s separation policy. The order, however, did not outline an plan for family reunification and allows the government to detain intact families indefinitely.
For her visit Thursday, the first lady traveled with a 12-member press pool, but she didn’t face any questions about her jacket fiasco.
Most observers of White House politics over the years agreed that her wearing the jacket was intentional — despite the insistence of her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham that it was “just a jacket” and that it carried no “hidden message.”
But Anita McBride, the chief of staff for former first lady Laura Bush, said Melania Trump was, of course, sending “a message.”
President Trump tweeted that his wife wore the jacket to indict the “fake news media” for its “dishonest” reporting. But others wondered if she was actually trolling her husband, sending a passive-aggressive message that she doesn’t approve of his policy.
Whatever Melania Trump’s intentions, she stirred up the kind of debate that could hurt her credibility as a compassionate advocate for children affected by her husband’s immigration policies.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd suggested that Melania Trump showed her true colors by “bizarrely” wearing the jacket — for whatever reason she had in mind. That’s because Melania Trump put her own personal messaging concerns above public service, Dowd asserted.
“The first lady is like her husband in one unfortunate respect: In times of national turmoil, she makes it about herself,” Dowd said.
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