Aug 9, 2018, 7:01 PM ET

First lady Melania Trump sponsored parents' green card application: Sources


Sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News first lady Melania Trump sponsored both her parents' green card application, a move which eventually led to their gaining U.S. citizenship on Thursday through a process that the president has derisively called “chain migration”.

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The first lady's parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, were sworn in as U.S. citizens at a federal immigration court in New York City.

"Citizenship was just awarded," the Slovenian couple's immigration lawyer Michael Wildes said after accompanying them to the courthouse.

When ABC News asked whether Melania Trump sponsored her parents, Wildes deflected the question and responded that "they applied on their own."

Wildes did not elaborate on exactly through what means or program the couple became citizens.

"Everything was through a normal process. Like everybody else here you're allowed to apply after five years of having your green card and so forth. It was all done lawfully," Wildes told reporters.

Wildes' response does not clarify whether the Knavses obtained citizenship through what their son-in-law President Donald Trump has derisively called "chain migration" or whether the first lady did indeed sponsor them.

"They have travailed a wonderful journey like most have – millions have – in getting citizenship and waiting the requisite period of time," Wildes said. "The application, the process, the interview was no different than anybody else's other than security arrangements to facilitate today."

In February, the Knavses were confirmed as permanent residents of the United States after emigrating from Slovenia by Wildes.

PHOTO: Parents of First lady Melania Trump, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, listen as their attorney Michael Wildes, makes a statement in New York City, Aug. 9, 2018.Seth Wenig/AP
Parents of First lady Melania Trump, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, listen as their attorney Michael Wildes, makes a statement in New York City, Aug. 9, 2018.

"I can confirm that Mrs. Trump’s parents are both lawfully admitted to the United States as permanent residents," Wildes said in a statement to ABC News in February. "The family, as they are not part of the administration, has asked that their privacy be respected so I will not comment further on this matter."

At the time, Wildes would not say how the Knavses received green cards to live and work in the U.S.

Immigration experts told ABC News in February that the most likely way the Knavses could have become permanent residents is through their daughter’s citizenship.

"The most obvious way that they would have become green card holders is by being the parents of a U.S. citizen – i.e. Melania Trump," said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration professor at Cornell Law School.

This is a process that Trump has consistently referred to as "chain migration." The legal status of the president's in-laws has come under scrutiny after the Trump administration’s proposed crackdown on the process.

In this Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center, Ohio.AP
In this Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center, Ohio.

Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration has shaped his administration’s agenda, after he persistently attacked the process and the broader system. As part of his administration’s proposed overhaul of the current immigration system, Trump made clear that ending chain migration is one of his key priorities — touting it as the fourth pillar of his reform plan in his first State of the Union address.

"Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives," he said in January.

The term "chain migration" describes the process by which American citizens sponsor their relatives for immigration to the U.S.

As one of the harshest critics of the process, Trump even alleged during the State of the Union that along with the visa lottery program, chain migration was a catalyst for two terrorist attacks in New York.

"In recent weeks, two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration," he asserted.

But in fact, despite both men who carried out the attacks entering the country legally through the two programs, they were not radicalized until after they arrived in the U.S., categorizing these incidents as homegrown.

The Knavses came to the U.S. from Sevnica, an industrial town in Slovenia.

Now Americans, the Knavses smiled for cameras, but remained silent.

“This golden experiment, these doors that are in America remain hinged open to beautiful people as they have today,” Wildes said.

He added they would appreciate their privacy and thanked everyone for “their attention to this very important dialogue that we're having on immigration. This is an example of it going right."

Wildes said the Knavses are “very excited.”

The first lady's office did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

ABC News' Devin Dwyer, Katherine Faulders, and Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

News - First lady Melania Trump sponsored parents' green card application: Sources

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  • dave

    wow, that's some hard hitting journalism, and the asinine comments? it appears liberals in general are morons but I'm sure this isn't a revelation.

  • TexasVulcan

    Your family can be reunited as long as they are white Christians.

  • Ward Cleaver

    Chain migration...what are they doing to earn a living/pay their own way? What are they doing to to contribute to society? Let's hear it trumpeteers....

  • No one you know

    Another case of the privileged exercising their privileges.
    And the 99% eats crow.

  • chooch

    I guess Chain Migration is bad unless it is Trump's own family?

  • Rebecca Hancock

    Melanie came here illegally and money purchased her citizenship. Then her parents did the same. She has no class and if she divorces Trump he will endure she is deported as citizenship can be removed for fraud.

  • Nearl45 61

    Congratulations to them.

    Chain migration much?

  • disqus_7Qw73LfCUQ

    Good, now The Trumps could sponsor all the other immigrants too!

  • rich1051414

    When trump gets out of office, we should use his own denaturalization program to strip Trumps citizenship and deport his ass.

  • george

    Thought the idea was to keep immigrants out. Ooh sorry rules or the Law does not apply to the Trump mafiosa

  • Butch Roberson

    Great news, welcome y'all!

  • Lee3422

    We do have an immigration problem along our southern border. Its not racist to say that whatsoever, its factual. This article points to one of many hypocritical actions by those close to Trump.

  • Alexis Rivera

    So chain migration is fine for Trump as long as its for his own benefit. So much for his narrative of wanting a merit based system... Not like it matters to his supporters, he could bring MS-13 in trough chain migration an unleash them on the streets and they would stll believe he can do no wrong.

  • Inspiridos

    If you want to discover what the mysterious hold is that Trump has on Melania, here it is. Her relatives in Slovenia ... yeah the Russian Mob is thick there too.

  • George286

    It's like Trump he said about taking losses on his taxes, it was the law so he took advantage of it. I am not sure of the hypocrisy of doing that, taking advantage of entitlements one wants ended.

  • Impetus

    So there's her parents squared away. Now she just has to ensure she can keep custody of Barron and she's out.

  • Anthony T

    Abcnews doesnt like the truth.....melania and her porn reject creating family are likely spies....

  • Omar Majiet

    It was a forgone conclusion anyway, why is this newsworthy? Trump basically saying "up yours" I am the law unto myself.

  • thenitenurse

    Face it! There are different rules for rich people.

  • Renate

    Melania's a little more feisty than I give her credit for.

  • tet1953

    Sponsored by Melania, of course. Otherwise known as "chain migration." What Trump says is horrible for this country. There have never been greater hypocrites than today's republicans, and Trump in particular. It's disgusting.

  • lou g

    While many people legally await their turn to get citizenship. some of priviledged with connections get in rather quickly. I don't know if Melania's parents received special treatment, but it probably would be difficult to prove otherwise. So much for Trump's war on chain migration.

  • Colinalcarz

    The Knaves’ “remained silent” I’ll wager, because though it is a prerequisite for citizenship, neither speaks English.

  • Putin's Ghost

    Trump's properties are used as havens for wealthy Russians to give birth. Birth tourism allows a foreigner to permanently gain dual-citizenship for their children. Russians use Trump's properties to make this happen under his watch.

  • Prophet With Honor

    Dad was a communist AND a used car dealer. Great credentials.,

  • badhairpiece

    Oh the irony.

  • d bo

    Her parents must speak English better than she does.

  • Ronald Bandor

    Isn't this the "chain migration" that Trump was complaining about?

  • Truthfully

    I don't understand...............Didn't trump say NO Chain Migration????????????
    Or are they the right Color?

    Disgusting trump crime family!

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Why no input from Trumpers other than flagging comments? Have they no defense or deflection for Melania sponsoring her parents and getting them quick citizenship which is called CHAIN MIGRATION which her husband hates?

    Since Melania's own citizenship is suspicious, you really see one more hypocrisy from the Trump presidency. Apparently rules only apply to the peons.

  • mike

    wasn't he a communist party leader..oh I forgot tRump likes russians

  • subtext9

    Why the uproar? Everyone knows that laws for regular folks don't apply to Trump, and his family members, trusted friends or associates who have not yet fallen out of favor with him.

  • Prophet With Honor

    🎶 Chain chain chain migration
    Chain chain chain of fools 🎶

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Is it normal not to be able to determine which one is the father in law and which one is the son in law?

  • james

    Well isn't that special?

  • c0reDump

    Maybe they signed up for Trump's Space Farce to get in the front of the immigration line.

  • reality25

    Aww, how sweet and her husband isn't even referring to them as "animals" or "infestations".

  • fmd160

    "They have travailed a wonderful journey like most have – millions have –
    in getting citizenship and waiting the requisite period of time,"
    Wildes said. "
    But now that they have, that will end for everybody else unless they are white and rich if Trump gets his way.

  • HonestlyPls

    Even though Don The Con is only 11/2 years younger than his faather in-law, he appears to be the senior of the two. Either Melanija has a father complex or a penchant for $$$$$.

  • Dave

    5 years? It took my grandparents closer to 12.

  • TexasVulcan

    But I thought "chain migration" and uniting families are terrible and must be stopped.

  • My Name Is Nobody

    Meanwhile, I've been fighting for nearly two years to get my wife immigrated from Thailand. USCIS informs me that they don't see a compelling reason to grant her a visa. I'm a natural born, 3rd generation, American citizen and she's my wife! They are telling me that to be with her I need to live overseas, forcing me out of my home, away from my children, and out my country. Not acceptable!

  • dancer92136

    Here is the deal. I wouldn't think twice about her family getting citizenship if DJT did want to stop this for others.

  • bromeando

    "I guess when it’s Melania’s Family, it’s 'family reunification' and should be applauded.
    Everybody else, it’s 'chain migration' and must be stopped." h/t Ana Navarro.

  • unusual

    I thought Trump was strongly against chain migration - Trump demonstrates once again that if he is ranting about something, you can be sure he's doing it himself.

  • Millard Farquar

    Wait! They should have at least spent some time in cages.

  • Tony Radcliffe-Hung

    I just hope now that Melania can finally move in with Mom and Dad and get that divorce she must be dying to have. Good on you, Melania!

    Your husband is a no-good, conman, demogogue, hypocrite and Judas to America. But then, you already know that, don't you?

  • unusual

    Well isn't that special.

  • Stephen Bishop

    Trump's tramp +2.

  • Dukedaddy

    Isn't this the kind of B.S.people wanted to do away with when they voiced their displeasure with government. Wasn't this what they thought "Drain the Swamp" meant?

    They become so brainwashed by Trump and his lies, his cult followers will not want to talk about this. Mind you, they may not even hear about this because the right wing media will not report on this!

  • MauiOhana808

    How nice.........................................?
    Make America Happy Again!!
    Thank you Special Prosecutor Mueller, the grand jury and YOU the American Voter!!!!
    Aloha :^D