MCALLEN, Texas (Reuters) – Melania Trump, the wife of U.S. President Donald Trump, on Thursday visited children displaced by the country’s immigration crisis in Texas, only a day after Trump reversed course and ordered families to be kept intact when entering the United States illegally from Mexico.
According to her spokesperson, Melania Trump decided to visit detention centers housing children because she deeply cares about the controversial issue.
But the jacket the U.S. first lady wore for Thursday’s trip conveyed a different message.
“I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” was daubed on the back of her jacket in large white brush strokes.
The trip to Texas was the most high-profile public appearance Melania Trump had made since undergoing a surgical procedure for a kidney condition on May 14.
Melania Trump wore a hooded green khaki jacket designed by fashion chain Zara as she boarded her flight to Texas in front of news photographers.
The first lady, a former fashion model, sometimes gets input on wardrobe decisions from her fashion adviser, Herve Pierre.
“It’s a jacket,” Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman, told reporters. “There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.”
The first lady’s unannounced visit came a day after her husband signed an executive order to modify his administration’s practice of separating children from their migrant parents when they illegally enter the United States.
Children have been sent to detention centers and foster homes while their parents are detained and prosecuted.
Melania Trump met with staff looking after detained children in McAllen, Texas, and met with officials and employees at the facility, where 55 children aged 12 to 17 are housed. Six of them were separated from their parents upon crossing the border, authorities told reporters.
By then the jacket was by then nowhere in sight.
Mrs. Trump sat alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a table at Upbring New Hope Children’s Center and heard caregivers explain how the children are well treated.
“I’m glad I’m here and I’m looking forward to seeing and meeting children, but first of all let me begin to recognize each of you and thanking you for all that you do, for your heroic work that you do every day and what you do for those children,” Melania Trump said.
“I’d also like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible,” she said.
She visited a schoolroom and chatted with about 20 young girls and boys. In one classroom, children were being taught about the July Fourth Independence Day holiday. On the wall was a handpainted American flag and the children signed it. The first lady signed it as well.
On Wednesday, when signing the executive order to reverse the policy on separating children from parents, Trump cited his daughter and his wife as influencing his decision.
“Ivanka feels very strongly, my wife feels very strongly about it, I feel very strongly about it. I think anybody with a heart would feel very strongly about it. We don’t like to see families separated,” Trump said.
Melania’s trip to Texas was cut short by heavy rain and flash flooding. She put the jacket back on as she disembarked from her plane back at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, D.C.
Defending his wife’s choice of jacket, Trump blamed the media, tweeting: “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”
Reporting by Steve Holland, additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington D.C. and Téa Kvetenadze in New York; editing by Clive McKeef