President Trump is the most vocally nationalistic president in modern history — a chief executive who has made skepticism of immigrants his political calling card. He is also the husband of an immigrant whose past immigration status has been the source of nonstop caginess from his political operation.
On Wednesday, we got a little taste as to why that is. It suggests there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy beneath the surface.
The Washington Post is reporting that Melania Trump's Slovenian parents are legal permanent residents of the United States. This would appear to suggest they benefited from the same “chain migration” Trump has decried and sought to significantly scale back. Immigration experts say Viktor and Amalija Knavs very likely relied upon this to obtain their green cards, though their attorney has not confirmed it. Trump has proposed limiting family migration to spouses and children, which would mean people like the Knavs would no longer be eligible.
Beyond that solo incongruence, though, the whole thing rekindles long-standing questions about Melania Trump's immigration status. Neither the president nor the White House have done much to address multiple inconsistencies in her story. This lends credence to notions that there is something else in her story that runs counter to the president's political brand and is being obscured.
Put plainly: If Melania Trump's parents benefited from something Trump decries, is it possible Melania Trump herself benefited from something Trump has decried? Or put even more plainly: Has she ever been undocumented at any point?
That has long been the suggestion behind these questions, and suddenly it is not so outlandish to ask.
For a few reasons:
1. President Trump promised in August 2016 that Melania Trump would hold a news conference to explain her immigration status. It never happened.
“Let me tell you one thing,” President Trump said. “She has got it so documented, so she's going to have a little news conference over the next couple of weeks.”
That was August 2016, when questions about Melania Trump's immigration history first cropped up. It has now been 18 months, and that news conference has not happened. Instead, Melania Trump tweeted a letter from her immigration attorney in September 2016.
At the time, it had been reported that Melania Trump had participated in a photo shoot in New York in 1995, despite having allegedly immigrated in 1996. The photographer later told The Post's Philip Bump the photo shoot did, in fact, happen in 1996.
Ever since then, the Trumps have declined promised answers to reporters' questions.
2. Conflicting statements
The same immigration attorney, Michael J. Wildes, explained in the letter that Melania Trump self-sponsored herself for a green card in 2000 “as a model of extraordinary ability” and obtained the green card in 2001.
That was different from what he reportedly told Univision just a month before, when he said she had earned her green card in 2001 “based on marriage.” The problem was that Melania Trump appears to never have been married before marrying Trump in 2005.
When Univision pointed this out, Wildes clammed up and said: “There are certain parts of the process that remain private. The immigration authorities don’t discuss this, nor should we.”
3. 'Extraordinary ability'
The claim to “extraordinary ability” itself, though, has raised questions. Melania Trump generally did advertisements and catalogues — not exactly the stuff of internationally renowned supermodels.
4. Working before she was authorized to work
The Associated Press reported just days before the 2016 election that Melania Trump had been paid more than $20,000 for 10 modeling jobs in 1996 before obtaining legal permission to work in the United States. The work came in the brief period she was on a visitor visa but before she obtained a work visa on Oct. 18, 1996.
As The Post reported at the time, it is considered fraud to say you intend only to visit the United States but instead intend to work, and this can retroactively harm your immigration status.
5. Her website falsely claimed a degree
Speaking of things that could imperil one's immigration status, Melania Trump's Republican National Convention bio and a bio on her modeling website claimed she had “a degree in design and architecture at University in Slovenia.”
As The Post's Fact Checker noted in 2016, journalists who have written about her life have determined she dropped out after her first year to pursue modeling. If she claimed that degree while applying to immigrate — which, again, we do not know, because these questions have not been answered — that would be problematic.
In sum, there is a whole bunch of smoke here, and the Trump campaign and the White House have not done much to fan it away. Given what just happened with Melania Trump's parents, it might be good to clear some things up.