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Melania returns to US-Mexico border amid separation outcry

Melania Trump
The Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Melania Trump returned to the border Thursday to meet face-to-face with those dealing with her husband’s hardline immigration policies firsthand.

“I’m here to support you and give my help, whatever I can” on “behalf of children and the families,” Mrs. Trump said as she sat down with officials at a U.S. Border Patrol facility in Tucson, Arizona— her first stop. She also visited what officials described as a short-term holding center for migrant minors.

It’s the first lady’s second trip to the border amid continued outrage over her husband’s now-suspended policy of separating migrant children from their families when they cross the border illegally. Many have yet to be reunited. The first trip was overshadowed by a jacket she wore.

“She cares about children deeply and when the news started to hit I think she was very concerned and wanted to make sure the kids are being well taken-care of,” said her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, on the plane to Arizona. “She doesn’t like to see parents and kids separated.”

Asked whether the first lady agrees with her husband’s polices, Grisham said, “She definitely believes in strong border laws” and wants Congress to strengthen immigration policies. But she also believes in “governing with heart,” Grisham said.

This time, Mrs. Trump made a risk-averse fashion choice of bland black sweater, white slacks and flat shoes when she boarded her jet at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. She changed into sneakers en route.

The do-over came a week after Mrs. Trump wore a jacket with a message on the back to and from the border town of McAllen, Texas that overshadowed her visit with officials and some migrant children. Her jacket said in white letters on the back: “I really don’t care, do u?

The choice baffled the Internet and spawned a slew of memes about what the first lady, a former model, may have meant. Her spokeswoman said it was just a jacket, with no hidden message. But the first lady’s husband, President Donald Trump, undercut the no-message message by tweeting that his wife was saying she really doesn’t care about the “fake news” media.

This time, Mrs. Trump seemed averse to distractions as she attended a round table and toured an intake facility in Tucson.

The first lady was also expected to meet with local members of the community, including a rancher. Tucson is about an hour from the U.S.-Mexico border.

“She really wants to learn” about the process making news around the world for cases in which parents are separated from their children, Grisham said.

Mrs. Trump is traveling at a tense time in the United States, amid increasing urgency over how the Trump administration’s immigration policy is playing out.

More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents at the border in recent weeks and some were placed in government-contracted shelters hundreds of miles away from their parents.

The president last week signed an executive order to halt the separation of families at the border, at least for a few weeks, but the order did not address the reunification of families already separated.

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered that thousands of migrant children and parents be reunited within 30 days — and sooner if the youngster is under 5. The order poses logistical problems for the administration, and it was unclear how it would meet the deadline.

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

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