- Amalija and Viktor Knavs, the parents of first lady Melania Trump, are reportedly legal permanent residents in the US.
- It’s likely that the Knavs used America’s family-based immigration system to obtain their green cards, putting them on a path to citizenship.
- The Trump administration is pushing Congress to enact major cuts to family-based immigration, which they call “chain migration.”
First lady Melania Trump’s parents reportedly obtained green cards and are on track to become US citizens, raising speculation over whether they took advantage of an immigration process that President Donald Trump has vowed to eliminate.
The Washington Post first reported on Wednesday that Amalija and Viktor Knavs have become legal permanent residents, according to people familiar with their status.
Michael Wildes, a lawyer representing the Knavs, later confirmed to the Associated Press that the couple was “lawfully admitted to the United States as permanent residents.” He declined to discuss when or how their green cards were obtained.
It’s likely that the Knavs, who are from Slovenia, used America’s family-reunification process to immigrate, according to immigration experts. One of the main methods of legal immigration to the US is family-based sponsorship, as citizens may sponsor their spouses, children, siblings, and parents for green cards.
Some hardline conservatives, particularly the president, call this process “chain migration” — particularly when referring to siblings and parents — and have vowed to eliminate it and slash the US’s overall immigration levels.
A representative for the Office of the First Lady declined to clarify the Knavs’ immigration statuses to Business Insider, saying they were not part of the Trump administration.
The Knavs have long drawn speculation over their immigration status — they are occasionally photographed in the US, and multiple news reports have said they live with the Trumps. But the White House has not confirmed whether they lived in the US permanently or just visited frequently.
The issue became particularly contentious last week amid immigration negotiations in the Senate to address the fate of young unauthorized immigrants known as Dreamers, whose protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is set to end soon.
The president and hardline conservatives insisted on overhauling family-based immigration and the diversity visa lottery program in exchange for extending protections for Dreamers, but Trump’s favored immigration proposal was shot down by 60 senators in a vote.
White House officials previously declined to go into specifics on the Knavs’ immigration statuses when a reporter asked about them earlier in February, but they also argued that such immigration policies should not continue indefinitely just because they have existed in the past.
Melania Trump herself has been a US citizen since 2006. During the 2016 presidential campaign she told media she sponsored herself for a green card in 2001 after working on a visa since the the mid-1990s.
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