Rattled by criticism of the detention of immigrant children, Donald Trump scrambles and shouts on Twitter and in a photo opportunity.

His wife Melania tries to limit the damage of the “zero-tolerance” policy with a PR visit to a detention facility in Texas, wearing a jacket with the inscription, “I really don’t care. Do U?”

But far from fulfilling Donald Trump’s public U-turn on Wednesday that children must no longer be separated from parents crossing the US border, the Administration looks at plans to put thousands more into facilities on American military bases.

Trump’s sudden shift on Wednesday — 24 hours after he said he could do nothing over the separations and detentions — threw his already chaotic “zero tolerance” policy into disarray. Officials differed over whether almost 2,500 children seized since April’s order could be reunited with parents. A proposal to put children together with parents in detention faced the immediately obstacle of a 1997 court order prohibiting the imprisonment of juveniles for more than 20 days.

So the Pentagon said on Thursday that, far from curbing “zero tolerance”, that the military is preparing to shelter up to 20,000 children on four bases.

The 20,000 beds at bases in Texas and Arkansas will house “unaccompanied alien children”, said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Andrews. But it was unclear if he was referring only to “unaccompanied minors” who entered the US without parents, or also to the recently-detained children as well as those who might be taken in the future. It was also not established whether the facilities will be only for juveniles or for families.

Officials at the White House, the Defense Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday that they could not provide any details.

Trump’s hastily-prepared four-page document on Wednesday directed Pentagon officials to provide “any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families” and to “construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law”.

Defense Secretary James Mattis evaded questions, saying only, “We have housed refugees. We have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes.”

There was further confusion as officials said the Border Patrol was halting the referral of immigration cases to the Justice Department for prosecution, because of the lack of facilities for children and/or families.

The Justice Department quickly issued a statement: “There has been no change to the department’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border.”

Trump Shouts

Meanwhile, Trump fired off tweets through the day. Most tried to shift blame to the Democrats for the “zero tolerance” policy and its effects, but he began the day by undermining Republican legislators’ efforts to pass a bill to ease the crisis.

Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have proposed that more judges be appointed to expedite cases of undocumented immigrants, but Trump repeated his rejection of the initiative while pressing for his preferred measures, including bypassing legal processesIns:

Instead of returning to the issue of separations and detentions, he declared that Democrat leaders in Congress “used to want Border security – now [they will] take Crime!” and stepped away from two competing Republican measures in the House of Representatives. Claiming that a super-majority of 60 votes would be needed for the Senate to confirm a bill, he snapped, “What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate?”

Trump repeated his false claim that Democrats, rather than his administration, are responsible for breaking up families.

With Republican efforts complicated by Trump’s interventions — and his failure to back a specific bill — the House rejected a hard-line immigration proposal on Thursday afternoon.

The vote on a compromise alternative, which would allow a long path to citizenship for about 800,000 “Dreamer” undocumented immigrants, was delayed until next week.

Some Republican legislators remain firmly opposed to any naturalization of the Dreamers, who came to the US as children with undocumented immigrant parents.


Melania Trump travelled to McAllen, Texas to see a detention center holding 55 children who have been separated from their parents.

She toured the Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter and met a group of children, some of whom spoke to her in English and others in Spanish, which was translated by a teacher.

“How long are you here? Where are you from?” she asked. As she left, she said, “Be kind and nice to others, O.K.? Nice to meet you.”

However, the White House publicity for the surprise visit was hindered by the statements of officials at the shelter that children could only communicate with their families by phone twice a week.

And attention soon turned to the First Lady’s decision to wear a message which could be read as lacking in sensitivity. A photograph juxtaposing Melania on the left with the ad for the jacket:

The White House and Donald Trump later insisted that Melania’s fashion declaration was not about the detentions, but for the media: