President Donald Trump has made it his goal to slash both legal and illegal immigration to the United States, calling repeatedly for the end of what he disdainfully calls "chain migration." This policy, better known as family-based immigration, allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their close relatives so they can come to the country — and it's exactly the path to citizenship the parents of first lady Melania Trump used.
On Thursday, the Slovenian-born Viktor and Amalija Knavs officially became United States citizens in a private naturalization ceremony in New York City thanks to the program their son-in-law has repeatedly vowed to end.
Through the demonized process of "chain migration" Melania, who became a citizen in 2006 and whose immigration history is sketchy at best, sponsored her parents for a green card. In February, it was reported they were close to obtaining their citizenship — just a few weeks after the president announced in his State of the Union address a proposal that would allow only spouses and minor children to be sponsored.
The president, who is working on a new proposal to make it harder for documented immigrants to obtain citizenship or permanent residency, has often denounced the policy on his favorite medium. He has tweeted that process is "NOT ACCEPTABLE!" and that the U.S. needs a "MERIT-BASED immigration system."
His in-laws are in their 70s and reportedly retired. In their native Slovenia, they didn't work in industries that would allow them to migrate to the U.S. through a "merit-based" system: Viktor used to be a chauffeur and car salesman who belonged to the Communist Party, while Amalija worked as a pattern maker at a textile factory.
Neither the office of the first lady nor the West Wing have answered questions about how Melania's parents obtained their U.S. citizenship. However, the Knavs' attorney Michael Wildes told the New York Times on Thursday that the term "chain migration" is a "dirtier" way to describe what he says is "a bedrock of our immigration process when it comes to family reunification."
Refinery29 reached out to the office of first lady Melania Trump and the White House's West Wing for comment. We'll update this story if we hear back.