First lady Melania Trump’s immigration lawyer lambasted President Donald Trump on Friday for his attacks on so-called “chain migration,” a derisive term used to describe the same process that his wife used to help her parents immigrate to the United States.
The first lady’s parents, Amalija and Viktor Knavs, were sworn in as American citizens on Thursday after years residing in the country on green cards. The family’s lawyer, Michael Wildes, confirmed to media that Melania Trump had originally sponsored them through a process called family reunification.
“This is a tradition that happens in all rank and all files of life,” Wildes later told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “This is a tradition where we have hinged doors — those golden doors have been hinged. And the whole idea of calling this ‘chain migration’ is really outside of the ethos of what was intended.”
Immigration hardliners have railed against chain migration for years, but the issue captured Trump’s attention in December 2017, when Homeland Security officials revealed that the Bangladeshi immigrant suspected of detonating a bomb in a New York City’s subway system had been sponsored by relatives to come to the US.
But critics of Trump’s immigration policy have said that one alleged criminal is hardly enough reason to deprive every US citizen of their rights to bring close relatives to the country, as Americans have always done.
After viewing a medley of video clips where Trump attacked chain migration as “a disaster,” “a killer,” and “horrible,” Wildes scoffed and accused Trump of fear-mongering.
“Well, tell us how you think, Mr. President,” he said. “It’s unconscionable to scare people into believing that. You cannot bring nephews. You cannot bring nieces or uncles. You can’t bring 32 people here.”
Wildes pointed out that family-reunification visas are backlogged by yearly quotas, forcing prospective immigrants to wait years — or in some cases decades — to come to the US.
Those visas are also heavily restricted to close relatives; Americans can sponsor their spouses, children, parents, and siblings, but they cannot directly sponsor extended family members.
“This whole notion of ‘chain migration’ actually is a beautiful bedrock of immigration law and policy called family reunification,” Wildes said. “Imagine this: people will work harder and love more and do more for America knowing that their loved ones, their immediate relatives, their parents, their children” can come to the country.