First Lady Melania Trump uncharacteristically shared her own opinion about the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday.
Her statement, disseminated via her communications director Stephanie Grisham, said that “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform.”
“She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart,” the statement continued. It is rare for a first lady to speak out on administration policy. Melania Trump, who’s so far been less public than her predecessors, has put children’s wellbeing at the center of her agenda as first lady.
The first lady’s statement stands somewhat in contrast to the administration’s position—and yet does not diverge from it entirely. On the one hand, speaking out against the separation of children from their family does conflict with the “zero tolerance” policy put in place by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The policy not only mandates the criminal prosecution of asylum-seekers who illegally cross the border, but also controversially requires the separation of children from their parents, which is not legally required.
On the other hand, however, President Donald Trump has repeatedly placed the blame of a lack of immigration reform on Democrats. By referring to the responsibility of “both sides” in her statement, the first lady’s position may not differ that significantly from that of her husband.
Meanwhile, first daughter and presidential advisor Ivanka Trump, who’s cast herself as the White House’s champion of women and parents, continues to come under fire for her behavior amid the fervor.
MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski slammed Ivanka Trump on Friday as “tone deaf” for posting photos of herself and her children on Instagram as U.S. officials continued to divide families at the border. The first daughter is “missing the mark every step of the way,” Brzezinski said on Morning Joe. “We’re losing a sense of who we are.”
Democrats, for their part, have widely criticized the policy, calling it cruel and disgraceful. A growing number of Republicans have added their voice to the condemnation in recent weeks, including a variety of prominent lawmakers, former first lady Laura Bush, a conservative newspaper, and a former advisor to Trump.
Between April 19 and May 31 the administration has separated 1,995 children from 1,940 adults, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen denied responsibility for these separations, writing on Twitter on Sunday “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”