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Questions are swirling over Melania Trump's parents' immigration status

Michelle Mark
Questions are swirling over Melania Trump's parents' immigration status
  • Questions are mounting over the immigration statuses of Amalija and Viktor Knavs, the first lady's parents.
  • The Trump administration is pushing Congress to enact major cuts to legal immigration programs, including visas that the Knavs may benefit from.
  • The White House declined to delve into the Knavs' immigration status.

As the Trump administration ramps up its demands that Congress cut legal immigration limits, questions are mounting over first lady Melania Trump's parents' status.

Some are even speculating that her parents could be benefiting from an immigration program the president wants to cut. One tweet went viral last week after declaring without evidence that the first lady's parents, Amalija and Viktor Knavs, "live in the United States Permanently now because of Chain Migration."

The tweet also falsely accused Melania Trump of illegally overstaying her visa and marrying President Donald Trump to gain citizenship. Her lawyer has said she sponsored herself for a green card before marrying him in 2005, though an Associated Press investigation discovered she violated terms of her work visa when she first arrived in the US.

But the immigration and residency status of the first lady's parents, who are from Slovenia, is unknown.

They have been photographed in the US on occasion, and multiple news reports have said they live with the Trumps. But the White House has not confirmed whether they live in the US permanently, or just visit frequently.

A representative for the Office of the First Lady declined to clarify the Knavs' immigration statuses to Business Insider on Wednesday, saying they are not part of the Trump administration.

White House officials similarly declined to go into specifics on the Knavs' immigration statuses during a press call with reporters, but they argued that policies should not be continued indefinitely just because they have existed in the past.

Melania's parents' immigration statuses have become particularly contentious since negotiations in the Senate are underway this week to resolve the fate of young unauthorised immigrants known as "Dreamers," whose protections from deportation may soon lapse.

The president and hardline conservatives have insisted on overhauling several legal immigration categories in exchange for protecting Dreamers, including eliminating Americans' abilities to sponsor parents and siblings for green cards, which allow immigrants to apply for citizenship after living in the US for five years.

While it's possible that the first lady's parents are benefiting from an immigration program unrelated to family sponsorship, such as extended tourist visas, immigration lawyers and experts told The Washington Post that it's far more likely that Melania Trump sponsored her parents for green cards.

Until the White House offers a specific explanation, the mystery continues.