Melania Trump’s Parents Ignite Debate Over ‘Chain Migration’

Melania Trump’s Parents Ignite Debate Over ‘Chain Migration’


Originally published by The NY Times

The naturalization of Melania Trump’s parents last week in a private ceremony in Manhattan led many of our readers to question President Trump’s opposition to family-based immigration.

In recent months, Mr. Trump has derided the program that his in-laws, Amalija and Viktor Knavs, used to become United States citizens. Calling it “chain migration,” he has argued that it must be restricted in favor of more merit-based immigration.

A few readers talked about relatives and friends who they feel have abused family visas as proof that the program should be curtailed.

But others offered themselves and their families as examples of Americans who, they argue, are just as deserving as the Knavses, if not more, of family-based immigration. Here is a condensed and lightly edited selection of the comments.

Tell us in the comments how you see the issue.

Families divided

Mama, NYC

My husband and I are U.S.-born citizens. Our legally adopted kids from an African country were granted green cards but must wait over a year and a half to receive their certificate of citizenship, thanks to the Trump administration’s slowdown on processing forms. They cannot take money out of their personal bank accounts, cannot apply for drivers’ licenses nor apply for college because their green cards expired while we wait.

Mike, Peterborough, N.H.

I am an American citizen who is married to a lovely Japanese woman and citizen of Japan. We have two kids, both of whom are also American citizens. We are in our fourth year of dealing with the bureaucracy of the U.S. immigration department, having to obtain countless documents, translations from Japanese to English and now having to find the inoculation records of my 48-year-old wife. Who, besides children, have their measles mumps and rubella records?

I guess the parents of “Einstein visas” have all that information and are able to slide through quite nicely in a private ceremony. Congratulations to them. I wish I knew the “right” people.

America burdened

Vik, California

I am an Indian who immigrated to the United States 30 years ago. I became a citizen 18 years ago under an employer sponsorship. I worked my way up from a student visa to a temporary work visa to an H-1 to a green card and finally to a U.S. passport. I have not sponsored a single relative for citizenship.

However, I am an exception.

I have a friend from India who immigrated here at exactly the same time as I did. He was the beneficiary of chain migration. His uncle, 15 years before him, had come to the United States and established a base here. He then sponsored all his siblings. They in turn sponsored their children and spouses, their children and spouses then sponsored their spouses and siblings, respectively, and so on.

Today, this friend has a very large extended family of individuals who would not have been in the United States had it not been for his uncle who started the chain migration in the 70s.

The above is an example of a regular, educated, middle class family, with no particular reason to leave India other than the fact that it was “conveniently available” and also with no special value add to American society.

Alex E, Elmont, N.Y.

Look at what one of my cousins did with his family. After waiting for several years, three of his brothers and their families, totaling 10 people, came to America on a green card. None of them speak good English. None of them has any skills. Immediately after coming, they applied for Medicaid.

Though they are trying to find a job, it is difficult to find one. If they don’t find any job, they may be eligible to apply for all kinds of benefits. Americans will be spending thousands of dollars to feed them, to house them, to provide medical care, to educate their children, etc.

While that is the case, there are many educated and skilled people who can’t come to America under the current system.

What Trump proposes is good for America. Bring immediate family members and create a merit based system with a limitation of overall immigration. After passing that system, if Trump brings any of his distant relatives, you have a right to criticize him.

Immigrants harassed

Realworld, International

I am a U.S. citizen living abroad on contract. My wife had a green card for more than 30 years, taught thousands of children, paid taxes and cost the government exactly zero. She was put under so much browbeating and stress by the I.N.S. (taken to private room for questioning etc.) every time we returned to the United States that she surrendered her green card for a quiet life.

We’re not coming back.

Contributions belittled

Mark, Iowa

I am somewhat conservative in many of my views. My wife is an immigrant and when I hear Trump going on and on about “chain” migration it really bothers me. I could understand if he is talking about keeping terrorists from entering the country, but my wife’s nieces and nephews who have tech degrees would be great to have here in America.

She would really like to have her mom come to live with us here also. Obviously her 70-year-old mom does not have any degree, and I cringe when he talks about chain migration because I feel like he is talking directly to our family.

If my wife wants her mom here and we sign papers that we will support her, there should be no problem.

Just a note, when my wife came here I had to sign papers that said she would not take any public aid, no food stamps or welfare, or I would have to pay it back, and that if she ran away or disappeared I would have to pay all fees associated with deportation, etc.

Jane, Midwest

My husband is an American citizen. He sponsored his parents for a green card, so they could come and live with his sister’s busy family, help with the grandchild, and not be alone in their country where things are bad and their friends and family are mostly dead.

My husband’s father recently died in the United States. One of his big fears had been that he would die in the old country, and no one would be coming to his grave. Thankfully, his grave is in the United States, and his wife, children and the grandchild visit often, as Papa hoped.

Trump wants to prevent people like my father-in-law from enjoying his last days with his closest family; this change would have crushed my father-in-law’s soul.

And now, my husband’s mother has her green card, but may never be able to get citizenship, and may never feel secure in her status, until her dying day.

No one in this family broke any laws. Every adult in the family has at least one PhD. My husband was initially on the Einstein visa — because he is an internationally respected physics professor. Why should he not be able to provide for his parents what the Einstein Melania did for hers?

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