First Lady Melania Trump headed back to the U.S.-Mexico border for a second trip to assess the challenges they’re facing down there and ask them how they’re treating the children and families who come across illegally.
During the meeting with a group of Border Patrol officials and members of the community around the Tucson Sector border facility near Nogales, Arizona, Melania told them, “I’m looking forward for our discussion and to tour the facility, and I’m here to support you and give my help, whatever I can [on] behalf of children and the families.”
Chief Patrol Agent Rodolfo Karisch told her that “serious enforcement of immigration laws is necessary,” otherwise the number of border crossing attempts will skyrocket.
“I know that some of the men and women who work in DHS (Department of Homeland Security] have been characterized as cruel, heartless,” Karisch continued. “That is not the case. You’re going to see first-hand today of the amount of care that goes into the families, the children of the people that we encounter here.”
After telling Melania there are 150 daily apprehensions made in the Tucson Sector, one of 22 border facilities along the southern border, he said, “Last year we finished off with 38,000 apprehensions. This year we’ve already passed the number.”
“We’ve had close to 3,000 family units. Just a couple have been separated, and they’re very short separations,” Mike Humphries of U.S. Customs and Border Protection explained, seeking to correct some public misconceptions. “We’ve also had over a thousand unaccompanied children. I think...since they’re alone, people think they were separated from a family.”
Humphries said there are numerous cases of human traffickers and victims they’ve stopped who have been traveling under the guise of being a family unit seeking asylum. He talked about how his agency cared for a 16-year-old girl who was raped while traveling to the U.S. and later had her baby at a hospital that agents took her to.
“We do give the utmost care,” he emphasized.
Karisch showed the first lady a photo of a 6-year-old boy found alone in the desert with just a coke bottle and a note. He emphasized the dangers of harsh weather and violence that children face while crossing the border.
“It’s incredible. As young a six years old, somebody would leave him,” Melania said as she shook her head. “Wow. Very sad.”
Another Customs and Border Protection spokesman, who is in charge of running a couple family residential centers, told the first lady that “we have a full complement of medical, and also we have a school system that goes from eight to 12. Additionally, these family units are detained for less than 20 days — on average, maybe six or seven days.”
“During that time, the children are fully cared for, inoculated, and they go through the immigration court process,” he explained.
“I love my job,” said Joyce Silva, a long-time Border Patrol agent who moved from New York City to Tucson for the position. “As a mother, it hurts to see the children. They don’t really know what’s going on. So our main concern is to remove them from that element of the desert — that dangerous element — and bring them to a safe environment where they have food, water, toys if they want it, and just take care of them.”
“There’s a lot of parents in the Border Patrol, and we really care for the children,” Silva continued. “And there’s a lot of agents that take out to the field extra food and extra toys. We’ve given them our lunch, also, out there in the field because they need it and they don’t really understand what’s going on.”
“Thank you so much for all of what you do,” the first lady told her with a smile.