Melania Trump visits border, Congress flails on family separations


Mcallen: Melania Trump made a surprise trip to the US-Mexican border today as her husband's administration seeks to quell a firestorm over migrant family separations, while Republican lawmakers were forced to delay a high-stakes vote on the crisis.
While President Donald Trump's administration struggled to formulate next steps, the Pentagon signalled officials were bracing for a lengthy ordeal. The military said it will prepare to house up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on its bases.
The first lady's unannounced visit came a day after the president in a stunning about-face moved to end the practice of splitting migrant families, which had prompted outrage at home and abroad. There was, however, no immediate plan in place to reunite the more than 2,300 children already separated from their families igniting a fresh controversy over the conditions in which the children are living. In McAllen, Texas, Melania Trump visited the Upbring New Hope Children's Shelter, a federally-funded facility that houses about 55 children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, ages five to 17.
"I'm glad I'm here and I'm looking forward to seeing the children," Melania said at a roundtable discussion with social workers and government officials. "I would also like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible." Images and recordings of wailing youngsters detained in processing centers with chain-link cage-like enclosures has ignited global outrage.
The first lady herself had called for a political compromise to end the separations the result of the administration's "zero tolerance" policy launched in early May, under which illegal border crossers were systematically prosecuted and their children separated from them as a result.
Melania spent an hour-plus at the shelter, talking directly to children who spoke to her either in English or in Spanish, through a translator.
One girl said she had been at the shelter for two months. Another told Trump they were learning how to celebrate the Fourth of July.
"Usually when they get here, they're very distraught," one official said.
Melania Trump was unable to escape controversy on the trip. She boarded and exited her plane wearing a jacket which read "I really don't care. Do U?" a cryptic message that sent the internet ablaze.
The political compromise the first lady had sought has not materialized so far.
In Washington, lawmakers failed to advance either of two Republican immigration bills in the House of Representatives.
A hardline proposal was defeated, as expected.
But a vote on a "compromise" bill between the party's conservative and moderate wings, which ends family separations but also includes Trump priorities like curtailing legal immigration and providing some protections to young immigrants, was pushed back to Friday, and then to next week, in a sign there was no immigration consensus within the party that controls Congress.
The failure dealt an embarrassing blow to Republicans under intense pressure to take legislative steps to address the issue.
The crisis was fueling a brutal partisan scrap, with Trump blaming "extremist" Democrats for refusing to help tighten border security.
"Democrats want open Borders, where anyone can come into our Country, and stay," he tweeted.

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