Melania Trump Wore a Jacket Saying ‘I Really Don’t Care’ on Her Way to Texas Shelters
WASHINGTON — Melania Trump visited immigrant children in a Texas border town on Thursday, and by the time the first lady left, she had made headlines for another reason.
As the temperature climbed to 80 degrees at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, Mrs. Trump boarded her plane wearing an olive green coat that read, in white capital letters, “I really don’t care. Do U?”
For the second time since her husband took office — and the second time on a trip to Texas — Mrs. Trump had made an unusual choice. It was a move reminiscent of her decision last year to wear stilettos to a hurricane relief zone.
One common reaction to the jacket was bafflement: What was she thinking? No, really, what was she thinking? Mrs. Trump is a former model with a keen understanding of her own image. She never makes an accidental fashion choice. Right?
When asked about the choice — apparently a $39 jacket from the fast-fashion brand Zara — her office quickly responded.
“It’s a jacket,” Mrs. Trump’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said Thursday in a statement to reporters. “There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”
During Mrs. Trump’s 75-minute visit to the Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Tex., she met with dozens of children as well as the people who are educating them and supervising their care. She asked officials questions about children’s well-being. She told the children to value friendship over all else.
“Good luck,” the first lady told them. The children applauded her as she left.
It was a striking re-emergence for Mrs. Trump, who underwent a procedure in May to treat a benign kidney condition and spent several weeks out of the public eye. Her trip on Thursday was a headfirst dive into the roiling debate over the Trump administration’s hard-line approach to immigration hours after her husband declared “we’ll send them the hell back” at a campaign rally.
She is the first member of the Trump family to visit the border with Mexico since a national debate broke out over the administration’s separation policy. The outcry led the president to reverse course under political pressure and sign an executive order on Wednesday to end the policy. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents so far, and thousands of families are likely to remain fractured.
“I’m here to learn about your facility,” Mrs. Trump told a group of officials at the center. She added that she wanted to offer “help to these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible.”
The first lady interacted with dozens of the center’s 55 children, visiting three classrooms, according to a small group of reporters who accompanied her on the trip.
Mrs. Trump, who recently started Be Best, a platform centered around the betterment of children’s lives, asked her aides to organize the trip after seeing photographs and video of separated families, and hearing audio of children crying in the centers, Ms. Grisham said.
“She’s seen the images,” Ms. Grisham told reporters. “She’s heard the recordings. She was on top of the situation before any of that came out. She was concerned about it.”
Mrs. Trump, who traveled to Texas with Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, was also scheduled to visit the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center, which had became a particular subject of scrutiny this week after a government video emerged showing families sitting in cages clutching mylar blankets. But her visit had to be cut short because of bad weather.
A senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity, told reporters on the first lady’s plane that only six of the New Hope facility’s 55 children had been separated from their parents, and the rest arrived as unaccompanied minors. At the facility, officials told the first lady that the separated children could speak to their parents twice a week.
Mrs. Trump also asked about the condition of the children when they arrived: “So when the children come here, what kind of stage, you know, physical and the mental stage” are they in when “they come here?”
She was told by an official that children often arrive distraught, but soon settle in.
“It’s a process, yes,” Mrs. Trump replied. “But I’ve heard they’re very happy. They love to study. They love to go school.”
In recent days, according to her office, Mrs. Trump was upset by news reports about families being separated at the border and helped persuade President Trump to take action to stop it. Amid the din of voices who tried to persuade him to change his mind — including members of Congress and his oldest daughter — the first lady’s concern seemed to stand out.
“My wife feels very strongly about it,” Mr. Trump said as he signed an executive order on Wednesday to stop the separations. But Mr. Trump, who faced a growing outcry from the public and from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, did not say whether her urging had swayed his decision.
In any case, Mrs. Trump had planned the trip before the president signed the order: “I don’t know what she knew” about the timing, Ms. Grisham said. “She knew what she wanted to do, and she told us.”