WASHINGTON — Melania Trump lit up when a 3-year-old boy darted out of “Family Unit 8” at a migrant center in Tucson, Arizona.

“Hello!” said the first lady, brightening amid the semicircle of eight cells in a short-term holding center for migrants. “How are you?”

Mrs. Trump, an immigrant and a mother herself, wanted to find out more about how her husband’s strict immigration policy was playing out on the ground, especially among families that have been separated at the border. Two tours of migrant detention centers in a week gave her a sometimes grim view.

Now the question is what she does with that knowledge – and how she meshes it with her dislike for dividing up families and a concurrent belief in strong borders.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham says more border visits or talks with lawmakers are possible, but it’s not clear what lessons the first lady took from her visits and what she’ll communicate to her husband.

The first lady has given her husband her views on controversial political issues throughout his presidency, but never in such a public way as with the issue of immigrant children.

Thursday’s visits to a migrant center and a school provided Mrs. Trump with indelible images and facts on the perils for families crossing the desert, the challenges for law enforcement and what happens to illegal border crossers and their children when they are caught.

At a Tucson roundtable with law enforcement officials responsible for hundreds of miles of border, the first lady asked how many children cross the desert alone. One official told her a 16-year-old was raped on her journey into the U.S. and gave birth in federal custody.

In Phoenix, as the first lady’s motorcade approached a sprawling Southwest Key migrant facility, protesters lined the sidewalk.

Inside, she stopped at an air-conditioned trailer marked No. 4 that held 10 boys and girls around 5 years old.

“Do you like it here with some friends?” Mrs. Trump asked.

“Si,” said one girl.

Then came perhaps the most sobering stop, to another cooled room containing nine babies and toddlers, and four of their moms.

Mrs. Trump squatted down to get closer to the children. She glanced up toward the women standing nearby and asked, “Who are the moms?” One woman from Honduras raised a hand. “Where is your baby?” the first lady asked.

An official traveling with Mrs. Trump said there were 121 children there and their average stay was 48 days.

The balcony was empty by the time Mrs. Trump departed.

At the gates of the compound, some protesters tried briefly to jog alongside the first lady’s motorcade as it sped, lights flashing, toward the airport and the four-hour flight back to Washington.

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