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

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

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.” 


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend