On Sunday, first lady Melania Trump released a statement about the separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, a directive put in place by her husband's administration as a way to deter illegal immigration.
"Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform," the statement reads. "She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart."
Not long after, people began to sing Melania's praises. "Melania Trump takes a brave stand against her husband's policies," one Washington Post op-ed headline read (the on-page headline has since been changed). The Hill tweeted "Melania Trump blasts Trump policy." Time even put her on a list of Republicans who "criticized" the administration's policy.
On first glance, you may be tempted to say, "Good for Melania! She's standing up to this immoral policy!" But that's not what's happening here. What you're actually seeing is a statement that was masterfully crafted by a publicist, designed to make you believe the first lady is speaking out against children being ripped away from their parents. In reality, Melania — an immigrant herself — is peddling the same mistruths and mischaracterizations as her husband.
Melania does not deserve praise for doing the bare minimum.
Separating families at the border is not an issue of "both sides"; it is squarely a decision of Trump's Republican administration — one its officials continue to defend. Additionally, despite what is in implied in Melania's statement and what White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would like you to believe, there is no law that requires families to be separated. (See explainers fact-checking the administration's false claims here, here, and here.)
Releasing a statement so painfully thin that it can be interpreted in a number of ways is something President Trump does often. Clearly, Melania is taking notes. "The First Lady’s statement is pure Rorschach test," reporter Adam Klasfeld tweeted. "The words communicate next to nothing, but they became all things to all observers."
The idea that Melania Trump is a "prisoner" of sorts in the White House, one who "resists" her husband's policies with subtle messages, needs to end. At best, Melania is apathetic about her husband's policies and how they are affecting people; at worst, she's complicit.
Considering Melania's platform as first lady is all about the wellbeing of children, I would expect her statement to be more forceful about why taking children away from their parents for an indefinite period of time and essentially putting them in cages is harmful. Former first lady Laura Bush condemned the policy in an op-ed in the Washington Post, calling it cruel and immoral.
"Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso," Bush wrote. "These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history."
For context, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was created under her husband George W. Bush's administration. Putting Melania's statement next to that of Laura Bush, it's clear which one was crafted to be a distraction and which one was written by a person who is genuinely disconcerted by what is happening.
You may argue that just because Melania is married to Trump doesn't mean she endorses his xenophobic policies or racist beliefs. Remember when Melania pushed back against Trump's theory that President Barack Obama wasn't actually born in the United States? Oh, that's right, you probably can't recall that because Melania actually joined in on the conspiracy theory herself!
It's hard to know what Melania really feels about anything because she says so little and when she does speak, it's a perfectly prepared statement that does not go off script.
But when it comes to this current immigration and human rights crisis happening at our border right now, she has made it clear that her allegiance is really to her husband and upholding his agenda — not to the children.
Melania is not a clueless victim and does not deserve our sympathy.