First Lady Tours Detention Facility for Illegal Minors in Texas

By Melanie Arter | June 21, 2018 | 4:03pm EDT
HHS Secretary Alex Azar and first lady Melania Trump (Screenshot)

( - First lady Melania Trump, along with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, toured a detention facility on Thursday in McAllen,Texas, where illegal immigrant children are housed when they cross the U.S. border illegally.

She originally planned to tour two facilities, but the first one - the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center - was scrapped due to flooding. The processing center is where illegal immigrant families are housed for a few days.

Instead, the first lady visited the Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter, part of Lutheran Social Services. The facility is a former nursing home. It is an HHS grantee facility which currently houses about 60 children aged five to 17 from Honduras and El Salvador. Most of the detainees at the facility are teens. All but six illegal minors at the facility are unaccompanied minors, and the rest were separated from their families.

The visit was planned before President Donald Trump signed the executive order on Wednesday halting the separation of illegal immigrant families who cross the border, according to the first lady’s communication director, Stephanie Grisham, although Grisham wasn’t sure if the first lady had knew that the executive order was in the works.

Mrs. Trump asked her staff on Tuesday to plan a trip as soon as possible.

“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,” the communications director said. “This was 100 percent her idea. She absolutely wanted to come.”

“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,” Grisham said.

She said Trump supported the first lady’s decision to tour the detention facilities, 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,” Grisham said.


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