Viktor and Amalija Knavs, First Lady Melania Trump’s parents, 73 and 71 years old respectively, were sworn in as US citizens in a private service on Thursday, their immigration attorney Michael Wildes announced.
The ceremony has prompted questions about Donald Trump’s flagrant disregard for practising what he preaches, as the First Lady’s parents obtained citizenship through a policy he has vocally denounced.
Mrs Trump’s parents, a former car dealer and textile factory worker, are Slovenian immigrants who had been living in the US as permanent residents.
The couple, who had been living in the US on green cards sponsored by Mrs Trump, took the citizenship oath in New York.
President Trump has campaigned against family-based or so-called “chain” immigration in the past.
He maintains there should instead be a merit-based system, which prioritises professionals over relatives, and has drawn censure for his strident attacks on immigration laws and immigrants.
Tweeting on November 2, 2017, he said: “CHAIN MIGRATION must end now!
“Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”
The First Lady became a US citizen in 2006, after she entered the US in 2001 on a coveted Einstein visa for people with “extraordinary ability” when she was working as a model.
Speaking about Mrs Trump’s parents’ citizenship ceremony, their lawyer Michael Wildes told CNN: “It went well and they are very grateful and appreciative of this wonderful day for their family.”
He added: “I believe strongly in the principles of family reunification, which is a bedrock of immigration policy and law and has brought millions of people happily to our shores.”
Asked about President Trump’s heavy rebuke of family-based migration, Wildes said: “I can’t comment on the President’s politics when it comes to my clients but I have stood up against the President’s immigration policies personally.”
According to The New York Times, Mr Wildes labelled family-based migration “a bedrock of our immigration process”, and when asked if the pair had gained citizenship through the system, he reportedly replied: “I suppose.”
There are only a handful of ways immigrants can obtain green cards, and the largest share of them each year are given out based on familial connections.
Another amount goes to immigrants based on their employment; other categories include refugees and special cases.
Under immigration law, Melania Trump’s parents would need to have possessed green cards for at least five years before they could apply for citizenship.
Their son-in-law has frequently attacked US immigration laws, calling them the “dumbest laws on immigration in the world”.
The US allows a number of ways for US citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor family members to come to the US permanently, including categories for parents, adult siblings and adult children, married and unmarried.
Viktor and Amalija Knavs are retired, and regularly go on trips with the Trumps to Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster, New Jersey.