First Lady Melania Trump’s parents became US citizens in a naturalisation ceremony in New York on Thursday, completing a years-long immigration process even as President Donald Trump has called for new laws to bar Americans from sponsoring parents and other relatives.
Michael Wildes, a lawyer for Viktor and Amalija Knavs, who had been living in the country as legal permanent residents after leaving their native Slovenia, confirmed his clients took the oath of citizenship.
The couple arrived at a Manhattan federal building accompanied by Department of Homeland Security officers. “Citizenship was just awarded,” Wildes said. “They have prevailed in a wonderful journey as millions have.”
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the First Lady, also declined to comment “as they are not part of the administration”.
The Washington Post first reported in February that the Knavs had gained legal permanent residency and that legal experts believed it was likely Melania Trump had sponsored their applications for family-based green cards.
Wildes said the Knavs satisfied the requirement that permanent residents hold their green cards for five years before they can apply for US citizenship.
It is unclear when the Knavses first moved to the United States, but by late 2007, Viktor Knavs was listed in public records as residing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida.
The Knavses received no special treatment because of their relationship with the first family, Wildes claimed. “The application, the process, the interview was no different than anybody else’s, other than the security arrangements to facility today,” he said.
Questions about the couple’s immigration status intensified last year as Trump mounted a push to slash legal immigration, including provisions to constrict the ability of US citizens from sponsoring their parents, adult children and siblings for green cards.
In fiscal 2016, the United States granted nearly 1.2 million green cards, of which 174,000 went to parents of US citizens, according to the Department of Homeland Security.>