The Slatest

We Knew Melania Trump Likely Worked in the U.S. Illegally. Now It Seems Her Parents Got Green Cards Via “Chain Migration.”

Melania Trump's parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, on the White House grounds on June 18, 2017.
Melania Trump’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, on the White House grounds on June 18, 2017. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump thinks illegal immigration is such a problem that we need a wall to keep illegal immigrants—who steal our jobs (and do “the raping”)—out of the country. He is so strict on the issue of undocumented residency and employment that he’s ordered the deportation of individuals who’ve lived in the U.S. for years and raised law-abiding, productive families. He’s apparently forgiving of some violations, though, such as the modeling work that the AP discovered his wife, the former Melania Knauss, did in the U.S. in 1996 that was not permitted by her tourist visa. As I wrote in 2017:


Melania’s violation could have come back to haunt her even though she went on to obtain an H-1B work visa on Oct. 18, 1996, become a legal permanent resident (or “green card” holder) in 2001, and become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2006. (She married Donald Trump in 2005.) At various points in that process, the fact that Trump/Knauss had violated her tourist visa could have gotten her in trouble. If she failed to disclose the violation in her H-1B application, that may have made her ineligible for the H-1B visa, and thus ineligible for the subsequent H-1B-based green-card status, which could then have been revoked.


Two immigration attorneys I spoke to told me that Knauss/Trump would have been considered a deportation priority if the Trump administration’s guidelines had been in effect at the time she was (apparently) working and living in the U.S. under false pretenses. It’s even technically possible that her citizenship could be revoked for document fraud, and Trump has said that if immigrants violate the law in any way, “they have to go.” Knauss/Trump resides in the U.S. nonetheless—as do her parents, legal permanent residents who, the Washington Post reports , appear to have obtained their green cards through the process of parent/sibling visa sponsorship, which Trump has denounced as “chain migration” that puts the nation’s security and prosperity at risk. From the Post (which spells Melania’s family name as Knavs):


Under his plan, [Trump] said, only spouses and minor children could be sponsored for legal residency.

But immigration experts said [parental sponsorship] would have been the most likely method his in-laws would have used to obtain residency that permits them to live in the United States.

Matthew Kolken, a partner at a New York immigration law firm, said there are only two substantive ways Trump’s in-laws could gain green cards: by their daughter sponsoring them or by an employer sponsoring them. The latter is unlikely, as it would require a showing that there were no Americans who could do the job for which they were sought.

Both the Knavses are reportedly retired. 

Frankly, I’m not really sure how to end this post without a by-this-point tedious rant about how Trump’s relaxed attitude toward his own European family’s violation of his stated principles indicates that his immigration goals seem to be motivated less by evidence-based concerns about policy than by, well, racism. So … let’s pretend I didn’t just say that, tediously. Bye!