First Lady Melania Trump surprised some over the weekend when she released an uncharacteristic statement about her husband President Donald Trump‘s immigration policy, which continues to tear apart families at the Mexico-U.S. border.
“Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families,” Melania’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, told PEOPLE on Sunday.
“[She] hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” Grisham said, adding that Mrs. Trump “believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”
While some applauded the statement and interpreted it as a “brave stand” against President Trump’s family-separation policy, others criticized the first lady — an immigrant herself — for placing blame for the migrant crisis on “both sides,” rather than on the Trump administration’s policy.
The Guardian argues that on closer inspection, the first lady’s statement “effectively endorsed her husband’s false claim that Democrats are responsible for his administration’s practice of separating parents and children.”
Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change! This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, High Taxes, High Crime and Obstruction. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2018
In a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also cast the first couple as in sync on the issue.
“What he said [on Friday] very closely mirrored what the first lady said. He hates seeing this,” she said. “He’s called on Congress … Democrats in Congress to work with him, let’s fix this problem.”
Asked if there was “any daylight between the president and the first lady” on the way the administration is enforcing immigration law, Sanders replied, “We’ve made it abundantly clear that the daylight exists between Democrats in Congress and their ability to change the law.”
During an impromptu question-and-answer session in front of the White House on Friday, Trump told reporters, “I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law — that’s their law.”
But as The New York Times notes, there’s actually no law that says children must be taken away from their parents at the border. In fact, it was the Trump administration’s decision to prosecute asylum seekers who enter the U.S. at the border that has led to parents being sent into criminal custody and separated from their children.
RELATED VIDEO: Nearly 2,000 Children Have Been Separated From Their Families During Trump Border Crackdown
The first lady has in the past been a vocal supporter of her husband’s anti-immigration beliefs.
Mrs. Trump — a Slovenia-born naturalized citizen who first came to the U.S. in 1996 on a tourist visa — told PEOPLE in a September 2015 interview about her black-and-white view of illegal immigration.
“I went through a whole long process [to become a citizen],” she says. “It didn’t even cross [her] mind to just stay here. I think people should follow the law.”
She added that while she was raising her son, Barron, 12, to speak both English and Slovenian, she agreed with her husband’s views on foreign languages.
“My opinion is that more languages you speak, better it is, but but when you come to America, you speak English,” she said.
Asked if she disagreed with any of her husband’s political viewpoints, Mrs. Trump told PEOPLE at the time, “I don’t want to go political yet. That’s his job and that’s completely his job and I’m supporting him. He’s doing a fantastic job and we will see.”
The first lady’s statement on Sunday came amid reports that nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families during a six-week period in April and May as the Trump administration adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal entry into the United States.
Critics on Twitter have spoken out against what they saw as Mrs. Trump’s disingenuous statement, including Kathy Griffin , who wrote: “F— you, Melanie [sic]. You know damn well your husband can end this immediately…you feckless complicit piece of s—.”
Melania Trump's statement mischaraterizes the situation. It's not "both sides" that are separating immigrant parents from children.— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 17, 2018
It is the Trump admin's policy and the Trump admin's policy alone. Trump can stop it whenever he wants. https://t.co/vjVfmdcCRV
#morningjoe. Sorry Mika, Melania Trump’s statement did not call for her husband to end this atrocity. She is complicit— pauli (@pj1414) June 18, 2018
Please do not use the Melania Trump statement to soften the administration’s action on immigrant children. It says nothing and doesn’t even come directly from her. This is a Trump policy. Period.— Christina Reynolds (@creynoldsnc) June 18, 2018
Apparently Melania made a statement to the effect, "Let's all come together to find common ground & stop the separation of ??????????????."— Allen Marshall (@AllenCMarshall) June 17, 2018
Sorry you disingenuous $#$!
Nothing to "negotiate".
This is something that needs to be stopped.
Your husband is fully responsible.
Melania blaming "both sides of the aisle" for children being taken from their parents by the US government does not make her more human or compassionate. It makes her a shameless, vile liar like her husband.— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) June 17, 2018
“Melania Trump’s statement did not call for her husband to end this atrocity. She is complicit,” wrote one Twitter user.
“Please do not use the Melania Trump statement to soften the administration’s action on immigrant children. It says nothing and doesn’t even come directly from her,” tweeted Christina Reynolds, a top strategist for EMILY’s List, a fundraising organization for Democratic women candidates. “This is a Trump policy. Period.”
Author Steve Silberman wrote: “Melania blaming ‘both sides of the aisle’ for children being taken from their parents by the US government does not make her more human or compassionate. It makes her a shameless, vile liar like her husband.”