President Trump’s Slovenian in-laws, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, became U.S. citizens in a private ceremony, obtaining citizenship through “chain migration.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly and vehemently denounced what he calls “chain migration,” in which adult U.S. citizens can obtain residency for their relatives.
On Thursday, his Slovenian in-laws, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, became U.S. citizens in a private ceremony in Manhattan by taking advantage of that very program.
Asked if the Knavses had obtained citizenship through “chain migration,” their lawyer, Michael Wildes, said, “I suppose.”
He said, “It’s a dirty — a dirtier word,” but added: “It stands for a bedrock of our immigration process when it comes to family reunification.” The process is more commonly known as family-based immigration.
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Melania Trump had sponsored her parents for their green cards, Wildes said in describing the process by which the Knavses had become U.S. citizens. “Once they had the green card, they then applied for citizenship when they were eligible,” he said.
Even as his in-laws were going through the process, Donald Trump was denouncing it. In November, he tweeted, “CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, said that because the Knavses are not part of the administration, “I’m not commenting on them.”
Grisham directed further questions concerning the president’s views on immigration — and the immigration status of his in-laws — to the West Wing, which did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment.
The Knavses have a relatively high profile for presidential in-laws. They frequently travel with the Trumps and split their time between New York, Palm Beach, Florida, and Washington, D.C., where they stay in the White House.
News of the ceremony prompted an immediate response on Twitter, with tweets ranging from “welcome!” to “unfreakingbelievable.”
The Knavses’ lawyer said their ceremony was kept private for “security reasons.” Thomas Cioppa, New York district director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, presided over the 20-minute ceremony, Wildes said. As is customary, the couple held their hands over their hearts and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, he said.
The first lady was not present, and her parents told their lawyer she was in Bedminster, New Jersey, where the president spends time at Trump National Golf Club.