First lady Melania Trump’s parents officially became citizens of the United States on Thursday. Viktor and Amalija Knavs were sworn in during a private ceremony at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in New York City.
What would normally be a happy occasion was overshadowed by President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on what he dubs “chain migration,” or family-based immigration. Trump has railed against the current American immigration system that allows US citizens to sponsor visas for their family members.
“CHAIN MIGRATION must end now!” Trump tweeted back in November.
CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE! pic.twitter.com/PQGeTTdRtX— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
But that’s very likely what Melania’s family did. Previously, there were many unknowns surrounding the first lady’s family’s immigration status. As reported by Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, Melania’s parents likely came to the US through IR-5 visas, or “Family Based Immigrant Visas.”
Little else is known about how the Knavses were able to become American citizens or reside in the US in the first place. This, according to Katie Rogers of the New York Times, raises “the prospect they were sponsored by Melania Trump or another family member.”
Even the Knavses’ lawyer admitted they had likely used “chain migration” — a word he does not necessarily agree with — to become citizens.
Asked if Melania Trump’s parents obtained citizenship through family-based immigration, sometimes called “chain migration,” their lawyer said, “I suppose. It’s a dirty — a dirtier word.” https://t.co/GXPXv7CSj3— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 9, 2018
According to Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, this addition to the roster of US citizens makes it harder for the White House to deny that Trump’s beliefs and policies on “chain migration,” and immigration in general, are connected to race.
The first lady’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, said that she would not discuss the Knavses immigration status because it didn’t have anything to do with the administration. And the White House, for its part, hasn’t yet commented on the US’s two new citizens. It seems Trump doesn’t mind chain migration when it’s his own family.