In 1996, when she was 26 years old, Melania Knauss came to the United States from Slovenia on an H-1B visa, a special permit granted to highly skilled workers… To do modeling. Twenty years later or so, Donald Trump would claim the “H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay.”
Two years ago, at 46, Melania stood by her now husband when he campaigned on a promise of a border wall that would protect America from “killers and rapists”. Two years into his presidency, Trump led Congress to the longest government shutdown in history over the funding of said border wall, and then unilaterally declared an emergency at the border. So, at best, his marriage to an immigrant is a blatant contradiction. But does it matter? Not to the First Lady or the President.
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@flotusMelania is only the second First Lady born outside the United States, but the first one is where this is actually significant. Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, was born in London to an American father, and her entire life revolved around the nascent American identity.
Melania, in turn, couldn’t have been more “un-American.” She was born in 1970 in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, a communist country that was then part of Yugoslavia. Her name was spelled Melanija Knavs, but she later changed it to a more Western-friendly “Melania Knauss.” She started her career in her native country, where she knew she wanted to do fashion early on. In 1992, she was a runner-up in a beauty contest, and in 1996, she moved to the United States.
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During a party at the Kit Kat Club in New York, she met Donald Trump and started a romance as boring as it gets, specially for a man of Donald Trump’s grotesque fame: older man meets young woman, man asks for young woman’s number, and the rest is history.
In 2001, not long after that, Melania got her green card. He paid for her lawyer expenses, and then Melania prided herself in having done her immigration process legally, first through the H-B1 visa, then through the normal process it entailed. “I came here for my career, and I did so well, I moved here. It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are. You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa.” Splendid! But being a supermodel, dating a millionaire, and flying every so often to Europe isn’t exactly within the reach of most immigrants nor asylum seekers. Come to think of it, hiring a lawyer isn’t within the reach of many American citizens, either.
@flotusThus, Melania is the first First Lady to be a naturalized citizen and the first First Lady not to speak English as a native language, though she does claim to speak five languages (French, German, English, Italian, and Slovenian) fluently. Some beg to differ. Her English is the minimum required to make herself understood, but she certainly isn’t fluent, so one is necessarily led to believe she still makes use of her Slovenian.
Footage of Barron Trump in 2010, for example, shows him speaking English with a Slovenian inflection. Odd for the son of a man who holds such a rabid obsession with nativism. When Larry King remarked that Barron has an accent, Melania playfully said, “He does. He spends most of the time with me.” “What do you think of that?” King asks Trump. “I think it’s great. Anything he does is okay with me.” And then Melania is quick to clarify he speaks three languages. Gosh, I just hope he doesn’t speak those three languages like she “speaks” five languages.
@flotusAs for the H-1B visa, it actually requires applicants to show proof a university degree. Melania’s website used to say she had obtained a degree in architecture and design from the University of Ljubljana. This degree, however, is non-existent. She dropped out in her first year, so at least some of the Donald’s tendency to be… post-truth has rubbed off on her. If this means Melania cheated her way to an American citizenship, she did so with Trump’s help. Ironically, it turns out Melania does have a lot in common with the immigrants her husband despises in that neither are eligible for the president’s racist idea of “Making America Great Again.” Luckily for her, she’s married to Donald Trump, and if we’ve learned anything about the man is that his own rules don’t apply to him.
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