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

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

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.” 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly 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