The immigration lawyer representing first lady Melania Trump’s parents pushed back against President Donald Trump’s hardline stance on a category of family visa that paved the way for his in-laws’ citizenship, calling the President’s rhetoric “unconscionable.”
“It’s unconscionable to scare people into believing that,” the attorney, Michael Wildes, said Friday in an interview on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” after listening to a replay of Trump calling so-called chain migration “a disaster for this country.”
“This whole notion of chain migration actually is a beautiful bedrock of immigration law and policy called family reunification,” Wildes said, noting he was speaking about his personal beliefs and not on behalf of the first lady or her family as their lawyer.
“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 … to say you can bring one relative and not another relative … I can understand that some of them may be in jeopardy, and you may want to retool an antiquated immigration system. It looks weird to have a lottery system. But chain migration? No. Family reunification.”
Melania Trump’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, were granted US citizenship Thursday, Wildes previously had announced.
“It went well and they are very grateful and appreciative of this wonderful day for their family,” he said in a previous statement to CNN.
The Knavses, who are from Slovenia, had been living in the United States with green cards and have been frequently spotted in Washington since their son-in-law assumed the presidency. A source with direct knowledge of Melania Trump’s parents and their immigration status previously told CNN that she had sponsored her parents for their green cards, a status that allowed them to live and work in the US indefinitely and paved the way for citizenship.
The US allows several ways for citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor family members to come to the US permanently, including categories for parents, adult siblings and adult children, married and unmarried. Trump and his congressional allies have sought to limit sponsorship to spouses and minor children. The President has also advocated a “merit-based” immigration system, but has not proposed any method of admitting immigrants to the US to replace those categories.
In the interview Friday night, Wildes said Melania Trump “absolutely” knew he was coming on the program.
“And to the first lady’s credit, from day one she knew I’m a former mayor in New Jersey. I just succeeded in a primary as I hope to be mayor of my city again, that I’m a very proud Democrat.
He continued: “I’m a second-generation immigration lawyer. My father represented John Lennon in a celebrated case where he took on the Nixon administration. The Lennon doctrine is actually the law that set the stage for President Obama to give out DACA (Deferred Action for Children Arrivals). So she came to a qualified lawyer with a pristine case with the intentions of bringing her family here like everybody else would.”
CNN’s Betsy Klein, Tal Kopan and MJ Lee contributed to this report.