Are President Donald Trump's in-laws looking to obtain U.S. citizenship? That's how it appeared on Wednesday, as first lady Melania Trump's parents and an immigration attorney were spotted visiting an immigration office in Manhattan, although the attorney, Michael Wildes, reportedly would not comment on what they were doing there.
Wildes, according to People, declined to answer whether the couple were at the office seeking U.S. citizenship, saying that "the family would like to keep it private." The first lady's mother, Amalija, reportedly remarked on the weather upon leaving the office, calling it a "beautiful day."
That said, however, The New York Daily News reports that the pair were at the office for a hearing on their applications for U.S. citizenship. As it stands now, adult U.S. citizens have the ability to sponsor their parents to become citizens; the first lady has been an American citizen since 2006.
Both the first lady's mother Amalija and her father Viktor, 71 and 73 years of age respectively, are green card holders, Wildes reportedly told People, and are permanent, legal residents of the United States. He also, according to the magazine, called them "absolutely lovely people."
While it's not publicly known how the pair received those green cards, a February report by The Washington Post speaks to why the pair's legal resident status has been met with scrutiny and controversy.
Specifically, the Post spoke with immigration experts who said the first lady's parents most likely became permanent residents by way of the family reunification process, or what the president has derogatorily called "chain migration," and has repeatedly called on to be ended.
The first lady's communications director, Stephanie Grisham, declined to comment on the story, citing the couple's right to privacy. "I do not comment on her parents as they are not part of this administration and deserve their privacy," she tells Bustle.
The president has not been subtle about his views on the family reunification process. In addition to referring to it as "chain migration," a term which some immigration activists and advocates view as inappropriate and dehumanizing. Back on Nov. 1, 2017, he tweeted that "chain migration" should come to an end, and suggested that it was being used to let "truly evil" people into the country.
"CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil," the president tweeted. "NOT ACCEPTABLE!" He's also tweeted his insistence that no deal be reached on immigration that doesn't do away with the process.
Needless to say, it can't definitively be stated that the first lady's parents got green cards by way of the family reunification process, although it would likely be the simplest and most logical explanation for their legal residence. The process is used by hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually, and is a key means of enabling families from foreign countries to become members of American life and society.
The first lady's parents, by way of their lawyer, are apparently staying mum on the proceedings, and that totally makes sense ― they're private citizens, not members of the Trump administration.
But thanks to their son-in-law's extremely public and longstanding aggressive stances on immigration (and indeed, immigrants themselves) the possibility that they're using a perfectly ordinary process to become U.S. citizens is stirring up attention and controversy.
Viktor and Amalija, both natives of Slovenia, were reportedly at the immigration office for about an hour before departing. Since their daughter became first lady, they've occasionally been spotted traveling on Air Force One, including to and from the president's Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida.