Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump climbs back into her motorcade after traveling to Texas to visit detention facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 21, 2018. Her jacket, reading "I really don't care, do U?" ignited public outrage. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

'Know Who Didn't Get a F***ing Break? The Children': Outrage Over Melania Trump's Recorded Comments on Imprisoned Kids

The first lady accused parents and children of lying about the violence they faced in their home countries and claimed children were "taken care of nicely" in ICE detention centers.

Julia Conley

Anger and condemnation ensued overnight and into Friday after the release of secretly-taped audio recordings revealed First Lady Melania Trump dismissing public outrage over the family separation crisis initiated by her husband's administration at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018.

"'Oh, what about the children, that they were separated?' Give me a fucking break."
—First Lady Melania Trump

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend of the first lady hired as her senior advisor when President Donald Trump took office in 2017, released the audio a month after publishing a memoir of her White House career, "Melania and Me."

In the recording from July 2018, Trump is heard first complaining about the expectation that she oversee the Christmas decorations at the White House and then speaking disparagingly of critics who said she did not do enough to speak out against the separation of thousands of families at the border—a policy which resulted in thousands of children being locked up in detention centers away from their parents or guardians.

"I do it and I say that I'm working on Christmas and planning for the Christmas and they said, 'Oh, what about the children, that they were separated?' Give me a fucking break," Trump is heard saying in the recording. "Where they were saying anything when Obama did that?"

The first lady suggested the Obama administration separated families in the same manner as President Donald Trump and his top immigration officials, repeating a claim by the administration. 

In fact, the Obama administration did not impose a blanket family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border; officials declined to use family separation as a deterrent to undocumented immigrants and instead separated children from the adults they arrived in the U.S. with only when there were doubts about the familial relationship or concerns about the children's safety. 

The first lady expressed her frustrations a month after President Trump was forced, following intense international outcry, to sign an executive order officially ending his family separation policy. By that time, under the administration's "zero tolerance" policy announced in April 2018, more than 2,200 families had been forcibly separated.

By the end of July, when Trump was recorded by Wolkoff, hundreds of parents had yet to be reunited with their children. 

In another recording, Trump claimed the children were "taken care of nicely" at detention centers operated by ICE—contrary to numerous credible reports of severe neglect, abuse, and unsafe conditions in the facilities, which in some cases resulted in the deaths of children.  

"You know, yeah, they are not with parents, it's sad. But when they come here alone or with coyotes or illegally, you know, you need to do something," adding a claim that parents and children frequently lie about the dangers they face in their home countries in order to be granted asylum. 

"They say like, 'Oh we will be killed by gang member...It's so dangerous," Trump told Wolkoff. "And they are not, you know, it's not true...Some of them are using that lines."

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), "In recent years, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala (known as the Northern Triangle) have experienced a dramatic escalation in organized crime by gangs, called maras," leading thousands of families to flee their home countries and seek asylum elsewhere.

"Current homicide rates are among the highest ever recorded in Central America. Several cities, including San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, and San Pedro Sula, are among the 10 most dangerous in the world," the UNHCR reports. "The most visible evidence of violence is the high rate of brutal homicides, but other human rights abuses are on the rise, including the recruitment of children into gangs, extortion, and sexual violence."

At the height of the family separation crisis, Trump was photographed during her visit to the southern border wearing a jacket with the phrase, "I really don't care, do U?" across the back—provoking disbelief and outrage among immigrant rights advocates. 

The July 2018 recording simply confirmed the first lady's attitude about the plight of thousands of families at the time, critics on social media wrote. 

"The woman who violated U.S. immigration law to work in the United States on a tourist visa, believes all those moms and children fleeing violence in Central America are making up their asylum claims," tweeted journalist Julia Ioffe.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·


80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo