First lady Melania Trump called for “compassion,” “kindness,” and understanding during an event with young students Sunday night, even as her husband’s administration continued its brutal crackdown on immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Kindness, compassion, and positivity are very important traits in life,” she said, speaking at the annual Students Against Destructive Decisions conference in Tysons, Virginia. “It is far easier to say nothing than it is to speak words of kindness. It is easier to judge quickly than to take time to understand. It is often easier to see a glass half empty than half full.”
She added, “You have the power to be the positive force in so many people’s lives. Show respect to each other. Treat your community like your family, and look out for one another.”
Mrs. Trump’s comments come days after she visited a detention center for immigrant children in McAllen, Texas and wore a jacket bearing the phrase “I really don’t care. Do u?” across the back in large white letters. Although the first lady’s spokesperson claimed there was no message behind her decision to wear the jacket, the president later tweeted that it was intended as a message for the media.
“[It] refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!” President Trump tweeted.
The first lady’s speech also contrasts with her husband’s racist, degrading comments about immigrants, as his administration continues to crack down on those entering the country at the U.S. southern border.
“Democrats are the problem,” he tweeted Tuesday. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”
Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2018
On Thursday, Trump tweeted that allowing immigrants into the United States would ruin the country, writing, “We have to maintain strong borders or we will no longer have a country that we can be proud of — and if we show any weakness, millions of people will journey into our country.”
We have to maintain strong borders or we will no longer have a country that we can be proud of – and if we show any weakness, millions of people will journey into our country.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2018
Earlier in May, the president referred to immigrants as “animals” during a roundtable discussion with law enforcement and state government officials at the White House. Although Trump’s supporters claimed he was simply referring to MS-13 gang members, the president did not refer to “MS-13” or “gangs” at any point during that particular comment, but appeared to be discussing immigration more broadly.
The recent family separation policy is part of a larger “zero-tolerance” policy announced by the Trump administration in April, meant to deter immigrants from coming into the United States. Although Trump signed an executive order earlier last week that supposedly halted the separation of children and parents detained at the border, his administration has shown no signs that it will discontinue the practice in the long-term.
United Nations officials and human rights groups have slammed the policy as inhumane and several states have said they will file a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its decision to implement the family separation practice, which has resulted in at least 2,300 children — some as young as 3 months old — being forcibly removed from their parents and sent to immigration prisons, “tent cities” (internment camps), or “tender age” prisons for those under the age of 12.
Experts and immigration lawyers say there’s a high possibility many of the children may never again be reunited with their families, and many have been sent to facilities across the country, with little or no paperwork to help their parents find them later.
The first lady’s comments Sunday evening come amid controversy over a Virginia restaurant’s decision to expel White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over her defense of the administration’s numerous anti-LGBTQ and racist policies. Sanders is one of several administration officials who have been targeted by protesters angry about the president’s immigration polices in particular, with both Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller being shouted out of two D.C.-area Mexican restaurants in the last week alone.