Saturday 20 October 2018

'Be kind to each other' - Melania Trump visits child detention centre at US border

Melania Trump smiles after signing American flag artwork while visiting the Upbring New Hope Children Center run by the Lutheran Social Services of the South in McAllen, Texas, (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Melania Trump smiles after signing American flag artwork while visiting the Upbring New Hope Children Center run by the Lutheran Social Services of the South in McAllen, Texas, (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Darlene Superville

Melania Trump visited a Texas facility to get a first-hand look at where some of the migrant children were sent by the US government after their families entered the country illegally.

The first lady's stop at Upbring New Hope Children's Centre came the morning after President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting the practice of separating these families.

The visit to the one-story red brick building, which houses 55 children between the ages of 12 and 17, was intended to lend support to those children who remain separated from their parents, said Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokeswoman.

"She wanted to see everything for herself," Ms Grisham said.

Children at the facility welcomed the first lady with a large paper American flag they had taped to a wall.

With the words, "Welcome! First Lady" written in black marker across the red and white bars, Mrs Trump also signed the flag, which the children gave to her.

Visiting another classroom, Mrs Trump asked children where they were from, if they were friends and how long they had been at the centre where staff said children typically spend between 42 and 45 days.

The children responded, sometimes in English, other times in Spanish, many of them wearing grey T-shirts with the red, white and blue words "We Are One".

U.S. first lady Melania Trump visits the Lutheran Social Services of the South
U.S. first lady Melania Trump visits the Lutheran Social Services of the South "Upbring New Hope Children's Center" as she visits the U.S.-Mexico border area in McAllen Texas, U.S., June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

She told children to "be kind and nice to each other" as she left for another classroom.

The first lady thanked the staff for their "heroic work" and asked them to reunite the children with their families as quickly as possible.

In a makeshift conference room, Mrs Trump met with staff from New Hope, HHS and border patrol, asking several questions about the children's welfare and asking that the children be reunited with their families "as quickly as possible".

New Hope staff reassured Mrs Trump, who was accompanied by Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar, that the children are assessed for physical and mental health issues when they enter the facility and are often distraught.

They attend school five days a week and have a variety of activities.

"We just have a tremendous passion for working with these children," said program director Roy De La Cerda.

Melania Trump listens during a roundtable meeting at the Lutheran Social Services of the South
Melania Trump listens during a roundtable meeting at the Lutheran Social Services of the South "Upbring New Hope Children's Center" near the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen Texas REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

"We see them as our own."

President Trump had come under pressure to stop the practice of separating families, including from GOP allies and the first lady herself, following a public outcry sparked by widespread images of children held in fence-like structures.

Press Association

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