- Amalija and Viktor Knavs, the parents of first lady Melania Trump, are legal permanent residents of the US, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
- It’s likely that the Knavs used the US’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 cuts to family-based immigration, which hardline conservatives and the president have called chain migration.
First lady Melania Trump’s parents have green cards and are on track to become US citizens, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, raising questions about whether they took advantage of an immigration process that President Donald Trump has vowed to eliminate.
Citing people familiar with Amalija and Viktor Knavs’ immigration status, The Post said they had become legal permanent residents of the US.
Michael Wildes, a lawyer representing the Knavs, later told The Associated Press that they were “lawfully admitted to the United States as permanent residents.” He declined to discuss when or how their green cards were obtained.
Immigration experts told The Post that it was likely the Knavs, from Slovenia, used the US’s family-reunification program.
Through this program, US citizens may sponsor their spouses, children, siblings, and parents for green cards. Some hardline conservatives, as well as the president, call this chain migration 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 did not confirm whether the Knavs 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 have insisted on overhauling family-based immigration and the diversity visa lottery program in exchange for extending protections for Dreamers, but senators voted down Trump’s favored immigration proposal.
White House officials declined to go into specifics on the Knavs’ immigration statuses when a reporter asked about them earlier this month. They also argued that such immigration policies should not continue indefinitely just because they have existed in the past.
Melania Trump has been a US citizen since 2006. During the 2016 US presidential campaign, she told media outlets that she sponsored herself for a green card in 2001 after working in the US on a visa in the mid-1990s.