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

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.” 

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate