On Thursday, June 28, first lady Melania Trump visited detained migrant children in Texas, which was a nice move in and of itself, but she failed to address the elephant in the room. Namely, the reason that so many more children and families are being detained is because of her husband's administration — a new "zero tolerance" policy implemented in April that punishes first-time offenders, asylum-seekers, and parents with small children for crossing the border in between ports of entry. The videos of Melania Trump's second border visit — although she didn't wear any monikered jackets this time — on June 28, are still as awkward as you’d expect.
"I'm looking forward for our discussion and to tour the facility," Trump said at the beginning of her meeting with officials at a Tucson, Arizona detention center. "And I'm here to support you, and to give my help — whatever I can — for behalf of children and the families. Thank you for having me."
Trump was scheduled to visit a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facility, sitting on a roundtable discussion with officials from CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Marshals Service, and a local rancher, according to a press pool report obtained by Elite Daily. Trump is expected to tour Tucson Coordinating Center, a short-term holding facility. She will then go on to a closed-press tour of an intelligence center. The first lady's spokesperson said the trip was planned when she returned from a Texas tour at the border last week.
“She wasn’t able to visit a DHS facility [during the last visit], and she wants to learn from the people on the front lines at the border,” Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said, per the pool.
All of this would seem normal, if it weren't for the aforementioned "zero tolerance" policy established in April by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In portions of the visit documented by the press, Trump and government officials at the border insisted that enforcing laws was absolutely necessary. You'll hear terms and phrases that stress the necessity of enforcing laws and making tough decisions and securing our borders. The cruelty of detaining migrant families (including small children) is brushed off as simply enforcing the law.
The enforcement of the law, however, is much different under the current administration — because it has decided to do so. Pure and simple. And anything Melania Trump says at the border that appears to be compassionate is empty if it doesn't acknowledge how the country arrived to this point.
Children are required by law to be moved from detention facilities after 20 days (this is based the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement that you might have heard about in the news lately). So, there was technically no Trump administration policy that mandated the separation of children from their families, but the implementation of the "zero tolerance" policy would ensure that it would happen, per the Flores agreement. According to The Texas Tribune, in some cases in Texas, California, and Washington, D.C., toddlers are being ordered to attend their immigration court proceedings and hearings alone. Yeah. That's where the country is at.
“We were representing a 3-year-old in court recently who had been separated from the parents. And the child — in the middle of the hearing — started climbing up on the table,” Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, told The Texas Tribune. “It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids.”
Meanwhile, during the first lady's visit to Tucson, she said this to border patrol agents, "I know how dangerous and difficult your daily jobs are, so I really appreciate all you do on the behalf of the country ... I'm here to support you."
So you can see, all the damage control and glad-handing Trump wants to do at the border amounts to nothing if what is proven to be exacerbating the border crisis — namely, the "zero tolerance" policy — is not eradicated. The DHS has reportedly asked for more space for immigrant families, and the despite the fact that capacity concerns are on the rise — as is stress on the courts system — the Trump administration is doubling down on "zero tolerance." No amount of smiley Melania Trump videos can change that reality.