By Barbara Franz
The President’s in-laws, Amalija and Viktor Knavs, became American citizens last week thanks to the sponsorship of their immigrant daughter Melania Trump.
To adjust the legal status of her parents, the First Lady, herself a citizen since 2006, used the path to naturalization her husband repeatedly has attacked and promised to severely curtail.
The Knavs are retirees in their 70s from Slovenia, where their daughter was born and raised prior to moving to the U.S., working as a model, and becoming Donald Trump’s third wife.
The international news media had a field day with the administration’s pecksniffery.
EXPOSED: Donald Trump’s Chain Migration Hypocrisy, declared The Hindustan Times. The Turkish Daily Sabah announced: Melania Trump’s Parents Get Citizenship Under Rules that her Husband Hates.
The Austrian Der Standard reported that it has largely remained unclear how exactly Trump’s in-laws got their green cards, and got them so quickly. The daily speculates it is quite likely they received this status because they are the parents of an immigrant daughter—it is exactly this sort of family reunification (now incorrectly referred to as “chain migration”) that the Trump administration wants to eliminate.
Instead, Trump’s plan will limit family reunification to married partners and minor children.
The New India Express explains that under current immigration law, the Knavs would have needed to have their green cards for at least five years to apply for citizenship, along with fulfilling character, residency, and civic knowledge requirements.
According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, it takes one- to two years to process an application for naturalization in New York City.
While the Slovenian media seems relatively quiet about these developments, the newspaper Dnevnik pragmatically noted it is not yet clear where exactly Slovenia’s most famous expats will live, as Trump owns homes in New York, New Jersey and Florida.
The British Independent stated the Trump administration apparently has no issue using the so-called chain migration regulation for the First Family. However, at the same time, it has applied draconian restrictions on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries who seek to reunite their families.
Moreover, while the Knavs’ application for naturalization was ongoing, the administration separated children from families who sought to cross the southern border, often illegally but also often to apply for asylum in the U.S.
This appears to be just the beginning of the Trump administration’s double-standards: It intends to make it harder for immigrants to get a green card or become a citizen if they have used benefits like the Obamacare, children’s health insurance, or food stamps.
Linda Chavez emphasizes in her commentary The First Family’s Chain Migration that the administration also wants to limit legal immigration — it already is on track to cut green cards granted in fiscal 2018 by 20 percent, compared to the last year of the Obama administration.
Again, in terms of family reunification, the president’s platform proposes that in the future, immigrants would be able to sponsor only spouses and minor children for permanent residence. No more parents or siblings.
According to Trump, this opens the door to too many uneducated and insufficiently trained, perhaps even dangerous people.
As the Slovenian daily Delo points out, the Knavs probably are not dangerous and their education is not too important, as they will no longer be part of an active workforce, except for caring for their grandson. To be sure, the president’s distaste for “chain migration” apparently doesn’t apply to his extended family.
The BBC focused on the background of Melania Trump, who obtained U.S. residency on a visa reserved for immigrants with “extraordinary ability” and “sustained national and international acclaim.”
Nicknamed the “Einstein Visa,” this EB-1 visa is, in theory, reserved for people who are highly acclaimed in their field, such as Pulitzer-, Oscar-, and Olympic winners, and respected academic researchers and multinational executives.
Melania Knauss began applying for the visa in 2000, when she was a Slovenian model working in New York and dating Donald Trump. She was approved in 2001, one of just five people from Slovenia to win the coveted visa that year, according to the Washington Post.
Knauss’s credentials included runway shows in Europe, a Camel cigarette billboard ad in Times Square and—in her biggest job at the time—a spot in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, which featured her on the beach in a string bikini, hugging a six-foot inflatable whale. Becoming a citizen in 2006 gave her the right to sponsor her parents.
Melania Trump was not present for the citizenship ceremony. She was in Bedminster, at the Trump National Golf Club, where Trump currently is staying and no doubt applying his “very stable genius” to further limiting immigration.
Barbara Franz, Ph.D., is a political science professor at Rider University, and a Morristown resident.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed above are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.