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February 16, 2019

Trump must govern 'with heart', Melania says amid immigrant children crisis

People participate in a protest against a recent US immigration policy, of separating children from their families, outside the Tornillo Tranit Centre, in Tornillo, Texas, US, June 17, 2018. /REUTERS
People participate in a protest against a recent US immigration policy, of separating children from their families, outside the Tornillo Tranit Centre, in Tornillo, Texas, US, June 17, 2018. /REUTERS

First Lady Melania Trump appeared on Sunday to break with the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy on illegal immigrant children crossing into the United States with adult family members.

The debate over the policy has focused on approximately 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents or adult guardians and transported to either government facilities or foster care.

Resulting photos of the circumstances under which some of the minors are being housed have driven Democrats to decry the situation as "heartless" and "immoral" – and to call for the use of discretion that would

The First Lady's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement to, CNN and other outlets that "[Melania] 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."

What 'successful' immigration reform means, however, is in the eye of the beholder.

The Justice and Homeland Security Departments are strictly applying immigration law, which treats border-jumpers as lawbreakers worthy of prosecution.

The month-old 'zero tolerance' approach was put into place in response to a dramatic increase in the number of illegal immigrants being apprehended at or near America's southern border.

That outcome, however, puts children who crossed the US-Mexico border with them in the same category as children of other criminal defendants – meaning they can't remain in custody with adults who are often their parents.

"It's the same as any other child who is left separated from a father or a mother who's held in jail pending prosecution of a criminal case," an administration official told on Sunday.

That outlook is shared by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the President.

Trump tweeted Sunday that "Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change! This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, High Taxes, High Crime and Obstruction. Sad!"

In this case, however, the children are initially housed by the Department of Health and Human Services, compared to minor citizens who are left with a single parent or referred to civilian foster care.

The official requested anonymity to speak freely, saying: 'There's no reason to treat any class of criminals differently than any other.' 

"If Democrats want to change the law, they can come along with Republicans. That, however, will require a longer-term solution including more border security."

"Border security' is the Trump administration's most common substitute language for the wall that Trump has promised since early in the presidential campaign.

Aside from serving as legislative leverage to secure funding for the wall, the President and Sessions have repeatedly defended their chosen method of enforcing federal law, saying it has the added benefit of deterring future border-crossers.

The President has sometimes clumsily blamed Democrats for his policy, drawing howls of protests and claims Trump is a liar from commentators, immigration advocates and some news outlets as a whole, most notably CNN and The New York Times. 

Some in the administration have openly signaled their distaste with the policy and its effects.

"As a mother, as a Catholic, as somebody who's got a conscience ... I will tell you that nobody likes this policy," Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday on 'Meet the Press.'

She also tossed the political hot potato down Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill.

"Congress passed the law that it is a crime to enter this country illegally," she added." So if they don’t like that law, they should change it."

 Senate Democrats remain the most persistent obstacles to a deal, refusing to join Republicans in a majority large enough to break a filibuster and bring a bill to a vote.

 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has refused to invoke a 'nuclear option' that Trump favors, abolition of the filibuster, a move that would allow Republicans to pass a White House-friendly proposal by the slimmest of margins.

The President is expected to meet with the entire GOP caucus Tuesday in Congress to drive congressional Republicans toward either of two immigration bills stuck in legislative purgatory.

Melania Trump last month unveiled a White House 'Be Best' initiative, a children's welfare platform focusing on 'well-being, social media use, and opioid abuse.'

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