First lady Melania Trump appeared to criticize her husband’s administration’s hard-line policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying she “hates” to see families separated and that she wants a country that “governs with heart.”
“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,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, said in a statement to CNN reporter Kate Bennett.
— Kate Bennett (@KateBennett_DC) June 17, 2018
The statement from Melania, who was born in Slovenia, comes amid growing protests over her husband’s policy.
About 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border over a recent six-week time period as a result of President Trump’s new “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security figures obtained by The Associated Press on Friday.
The report says that from April 19 through May 31, 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults.
Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, unveiled the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border last month, directing border agents to separate children from their parents at the border and prosecute the adults. The administration has framed the new policy as a deterrent to stop migrants from attempting to enter the country.
The Trump admin announced this week that it would build a “tent city” in Tornillo, Texas to handle the overflow of children separated from their families.
The United Nations human rights office earlier this month demanded that the Trump administration “immediately halt” its policy of tearing migrant children away from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, declaring that the practice “always constitutes a child rights violation.”
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that the office is “deeply concerned” by the U.S. government’s decision to separate migrant families, arguing that the policy “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child.”
“Children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents’ migration status. Detention is never in the best interests of the child,” Shamdasani declared, noting that the practice seems to have been in effect since October and has been applied “to both asylum-seekers and other migrants in vulnerable situations.”
“The child’s best interest should always come first, including over migration management objectives or other administrative concerns,” she continued, emphasizing that the policy “runs counter to human rights standards and principles.”
“The majority of people arriving at the U.S.’s southern border have fled Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—in many cases either because of rampant insecurity and violence, or because of violations of a range of other rights, such as health, education, and housing,” she noted. “The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offense.”
Shamdasani also pointed out that although “the rights of children are generally held in high regard in the U.S., it is the only country in the world not to have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.” The convention explicitly states that children “should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding,” and has been active for nearly three decades.