In June last year, Melania Trump made the baffling decision to visit immigrant children detained on the US-Mexico border wearing a jacket that said “I really don’t care, do u?”
Almost exactly a year later to the day, America’s First Lady has again raised eyebrows with a move so shockingly tone-deaf to the detained child migrant crisis, it defies belief.
Announcing an expansion this week of her much-maligned (and strangely phrased) ‘Be Best’ initiative, Mrs Trump revealed the appointment of 21 ambassadors from key agencies across the Trump Administration to “help further the First Lady’s goal of educating children and parents about the issues they face, and promoting programs and services available to help them with today’s challenges.”
A press release detailed the areas in which the First Lady hopes to effect change, from the children affected by America’s opioid crisis, to those suffering from online bullying.
Tweeting a link to the statement, she wrote that she wanted to “better the lives of children everywhere”. The almost 500-word statement did not make a single mention of the thousands of migrant children who are being held in appalling conditions in detention centres on the US-Mexico border, a crisis that has horrified the world.
Looking forward to collaborating with all of our #BeBest Ambassadors. Delighted to be working alongside so many people both inside and outside of government to better the lives of children everywhere!https://t.co/VXxwgg6DFz
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) June 24, 2019
As a confronting report by CNN correspondents published on Wednesday detailed:
“US Border Patrol is holding many children, including some who are much too young to take care of themselves, in jail-like border facilities for weeks at a time without contact with family members, regular access to showers, clean clothes, toothbrushes, or proper beds. Many are sick. Many, including children as young as 2 or 3, have been separated from adult caretakers without any provisions for their care besides the unrelated older children also being held in detention.”
It’s unfathomable Mrs Trump and her advisers didn’t appear to note the insensitivity of proclaiming to want to “better the lives of children everywhere” at the very moment debate rages over the thousands of kids separated from their parents and detained on US soil, and six migrant kids have died in US border patrol custody. Criticism was swift.
Among the fiercest was Congressman Ted Lieu, who said in a tweet to Mrs Trump:
“Your #BeBest Ambassadors may want to visit detention camps where [the Trump] Administration is arguing it doesn’t have to provide soap, toothbrushes & toothpaste.”
1. Detention camps where @realDonaldTrump Administration is arguing it doesn’t have to provide soap, toothbrushes & toothpaste
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) June 25, 2019
It’s not the first time members of the Trump family and administration have seemed insensitive to the pain and trauma being experienced by migrant families arriving at the US border. In May 2018, Ivanka Trump was slammed for posting a photo of her and her son cuddling as news broke of kids being wrenched from their parents’ arms.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) May 27, 2018
At the time, Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics and former Democratic strategist, wrote:
“This is so unbelievably tone deaf, given that public outrage is growing over young kids being forcibly ripped from the arms of their parents at the border – a barbaric policy that Ivanka Trump is complicit in supporting.”
Just over a year later, the same can be said of Melania Trump’s ill-timed announcement. Bettering “the lives of children everywhere” – except if they’re migrants.
In a compelling New York Times article last year, friends and acquaintances of Melania described her as “warm, engaging and witty, traits at odds with the totemic stance she often takes in public … just like her husband, she often ignores guidance from aides in favor of her own instincts.”
Given that her signature initiative as First Lady is focused on helping children, it’s perplexing and, frankly, shameful that when it comes to what’s happening at the US border, Melania Trump is unconscionably silent.