Melania Trump’s Parents Just Became Citizens Through a Process Her Husband Wants to Make Illegal

The first lady sponsored her parents’ green cards years ago.

Viktor and Amalija Knavs listen as their attorney makes a statement in New York on Thursday. First lady Melania Trump's parents have been sworn in as U.S. citizens. Seth Wenig/AP Photo

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President Donald Trump has long demanded an end to “chain migration”—Republicans’ favorite term for the practice of legal immigrants sponsoring their relatives for green cards. But that hasn’t stopped Melania Trump’s parents, who applied for citizenship in the United States through the same process that their son-in-law hopes to make illegal. 

The first lady’s Slovenian-born parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, became U.S. citizens in a brief ceremony in New York on Thursday, the New York Times reports, after Melania Trump sponsored them for green cards.  

 “Once they had the green card, they then applied for citizenship when they were eligible,” the family’s lawyer confirmed to the Times. The lawyer also confirmed that the Knavses had held their green cards for at least five years, as required by law. 

Donald Trump has frequently railed against “chain migration” and insisted that any immigration reform bill get rid of this practice. The White House has supported a plan that would stop legal immigrants from sponsoring their parents for green cards—in other words, doing exactly what Melania has done. 

In his State of the Union address this year, Trump claimed that family-based migration allows people to bring in “virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives” and said he supported “limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children.” As my colleague Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn has previously reported, it’s not exactly true that current law allows for “unlimited” migration. The White House has also made misleading claims that the practice threatens national security and hurts the economy. 

Despite the president’s hostility toward “chain migration,” both he and Vice President Mike Pence are descended from European immigrants who benefited from family-based migration by joining their relatives in the U.S. 

When asked if Melania Trump’s parents had come to the country via “chain migration,” their lawyer told the Times, “I suppose. It’s a dirty — a dirtier word.” He added: “It stands for a bedrock of our immigration process when it comes to family reunification.” 

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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