While Donald Trump has loudly called for building a wall and deporting immigrants in this country, Melania Trump — America's second foreign-born first lady — may influence more inclusive policies for people not born in the United States. Then again, it's possible that, in-line with her husband, she only defends the so-called "good immigrants." Still, she asserts that she has her own opinions, sometimes differing from those of the new president-elect.
"I give him my opinions, many, many times," Melania told CNN back in February about how she talks to her husband. "I don't agree with everything that he says, but, you know, that is normal." Then, she added, "I'm my own person, I tell him what I think. I'm standing very strong on the ground on my two feet and I'm my own person. And I think that's very important in the relationship."
The Slovenian-born future first lady comes after the first foreign-born first lady, Louisa Adams, wife of sixth president John Quincy Adams. Coincidentally, Louisa and Melania share some common words. “Now I like very well to adopt my husband’s thoughts and words when I approve of them, but I do not like to repeat them like a parrot," wrote Louisa a few years before she died in 1852, according to Time. "When my husband married me, he made a great mistake if he thought I only intended to play an echo.”
Louisa was instrumental in getting Adams elected president in a controversial race (sounds a little too familiar) by throwing a party for Andrew Jackson so he would be wooed into being Adams' running mate. Instead, Jackson ran against Adams, gaining the popular and electoral votes but not getting the required majority in election rules that were new for the time. The election was called a "corrupt bargain" between Adams and the candidate with the fewest electoral votes, Henry Clay. And Louisa expressed that she felt her husband's election was a tainted victory.
In some ways, though, Melania's appeal to immigrants is tainted. She has defended her husband's immigration policies by asserting she is a so-called good immigrant, as she told the New Republic.
"I followed the law," she said. "I never thought to stay here without papers. I had a visa, I traveled every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa. I came back, I applied for the green card, I applied for the citizenship later on after many years of green card. So I went by the system, I went by the law. And you should do that, you should not just say let me stay here and whatever happens, happens."
Melania was scrutinized in the media after telling her own immigration story. The New York Post had posted photos of the then-model from 1995, but she claims to have emigrated to America in 1996. To combat this scrutiny, she had her immigration attorney released a letter showing how she entered the country legally.
As someone who grew up in communist Yugoslavia and knows five languages (Slovenian, English, French, Serbian, and German), Melania can reach out to a wide variety of immigrants and people in other countries — but she may be hampered by her insistence on taking care of "good" immigrants and not undocumented people in this country that are separated from their families. Let's hope she diverts from her husband's policies on this one.