First lady Melania Trump, visiting Arizona to get another firsthand look at the immigration situation, was told that the government is doing all it can for the children and families streaming across the border, including rescuing them from danger and providing them top-notch care.
One government official recounted an illegal-immigrant woman who was raped during her journey and ended up delivering the baby in government care, while another Border Patrol official recounted a 6-year-old Costa Rican boy whose uncle abandoned him in the desert earlier this month with a bottle of Coke and a note telling agents how to contact the boy’s mother.
The story seemed to shock Mrs. Trump.
“It’s incredible. As young as six years old, somebody would leave him,” she said.
The Washington Times reported last week that the boy’s mother is an illegal immigrant living in the U.S., and the boy’s uncle dropped him off for agents to find, knowing the government would reunite him with his mother.
Mrs. Trump was in Tucson to get a first-hand look at how children and families are being treated in Homeland Security facilities after they are caught either jumping the border or trying to enter through a port of entry without permission.
Last week Mrs. Trump was in Texas where she saw a federal Health Department dorm, where Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) are kept while they await being placed with sponsors in the U.S.
Her spokeswoman said she wanted to get a look at the Homeland Security facilities as well.
Many of the news reports surrounding the border and family separation issue have conflated the two systems.
Illegal immigrants caught at the border are initially taken to Customs and Border Protection facilities, where they are processed. Children can be held there for no longer than 72 hours.
Families and adults are then supposed to be transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where they can be held longer. Children are supposed to be turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Health Department, where they are either placed quickly with sponsors or else placed in dorms like the one Mrs. Trump visited last week.
Those dorms are cushy — The Washington Times has reported on the contracts calling for all-you-can-eat food, “multicultural crayons,” culturally sensitive music piped into rooms over intercoms and generous cable television packages so the children can watch their favorite sports teams from back home.
The CBP facilities, intended for short-term stays while people are being processed, and generally built when the flow of people was almost exclusively adult men, are far less cushy.
They include some of the photos critics have described as “cages” — large fenced-in cells where people are kept together. The children are given bed mats, Mylar blankets, three meals and snacks, according to a court-ordered compliance report earlier this year.
“You’re going to see firsthand today the amount of case that goes into the families and children of people we encounter here,” Rodolfo Karisch, chief patrol agent in the Border Patrol’s Tuscon sector, told Mrs. Trump as she began her visit. “There’s been a lot of misinformation put out to the general public of the conditions of our facilities and how the people care for the immigrants that we encounter.”
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