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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Ivanka: family separations are a ‘low point’ and media are not the enemy

Her position aligns with that of everyday Americans, who polls show are broadly opposed to migrant policy

Ms Trump also distanced herself from her father’s relentless condemnation of the media. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON
Ms Trump also distanced herself from her father’s relentless condemnation of the media. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON

Ivanka Trump distanced herself Thursday from some of her father’s most controversial policies and strident rhetoric, saying she is “vehemently against” family separations and that journalists are not the enemy.

Speaking publicly for the first time since she shuttered her eponymous fashion brand last week, the first daughter and senior advisor to president Donald Trump took a decidedly different approach than her combative father to stress that the immigration crisis has caused her anxiety.

“That was a low point for me as well,” Ms Trump, 36, told a conference organised by news website Axios, referring to the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy that led to the separation of thousands of children from their migrant parents.

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“I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children, so I would agree with that sentiment.”

Ivanka’s position aligns with the opinions of everyday Americans, who polls show are broadly opposed to the separations – although the immigration policy retains majority support among Republicans.

The immigration crisis, which swelled further when audio emerged of detained toddlers crying for their mothers, caused a firestorm and in June the president reversed course.

He ordered an end to the separations. But as of last week’s deadline, 711 of the roughly 2,500 separated children were still not reunited with their parents, and officials were unable to clarify when they would see their family.

Ms Trump also distanced herself from her father’s relentless condemnation of the media – attacks that have raised the levels of anti-press antagonism at his recent rallies.

While saying she had “sensitivity” about why some people who feel targeted have gripes with reporters, the moniker with which the president has branded them is misplaced.

“No, I do not feel that the media is the enemy of the people,” Ivanka said.

The divergence from the president is not surprising. Many observers at the start of Trump’s presidency had come to believe that Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, formed a compassionate camp in the White House and would act as a check on her father’s cruder instincts.

That role failed to fully materialise. While Trump was said to have discouraged her father privately from the border policy, she said nothing publicly until after his reversal, when she thanked him for “taking critical action ending family separation at our border.”

Last year, she urged him to keep the United States in the Paris climate accord, but her prodding fell on deaf ears and the president pulled out.

In November, as Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore faced accusations he pursued sexual relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s, Ivanka Trump weighed in, saying “there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

But two weeks later, the president endorsed Moore, who ultimately lost to a Democrat.

As first daughter, Ivanka has traveled overseas representing the United States, attended meetings with visiting heads of state and traveled domestically, fueling speculation that she may harbour future political ambitions of her own.

“I’m really passionate about the work that I’m doing here and I’m really committed to it,” she said Thursday.

So much so that last week she announced she was closing her fashion brand, following criticism about potential conflicts of interest and flagging sales.

Ms Trump said she might return to the private sector “at some point,” but could not give a timetable and felt that was “unfair” to her company staff, so she decided to shutter the business.

In discussing the immigration crisis, Ms Trump described herself as “the daughter of an immigrant” -- her mother was born and raised in the former Czechoslovakia, and came to the US legally.

“So we have to be very careful about incentivising behaviour that puts children at risk of being trafficked, at risk of entering this country with coyotes or making an incredibly dangerous journey alone,” she said.

“These are incredibly difficult issues, and like the rest of the country I experience them in a very emotional way.”