First lady, Melania Trump’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs who had been living in the country as legal permanent residents after leaving their native Slovenia took the oath of citizenship in a private ceremony at a Manhattan federal building accompanied by Department of Homeland Security officers.
Earlier media report indicated that the Knavs had gained legal permanent residency and that legal experts believed it was likely Melania Trump had sponsored their applications for family-based green cards.
Michael Wildes, a lawyer for the Knavs said Viktor and Amalija satisfied the requirement that permanent resident hold their green cards for five years before they can apply for US citizenship. It is unclear when the Knavs first moved to the United States, but by late 2007, Viktor Knavs was listed in public records as residing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's private club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Questions about the couple's immigration status intensified last year just as Trump mounted a push to slash legal immigration, including provisions to constrict the ability of US citizens from sponsoring their parents, adult children and siblings for green cards.
In a tweet in November, Trump wrote "Chain migration must end now. Some people come in and they bring their whole family, who can be truly evil with them. Not acceptable."
Trump has railed against what he calls "chain migration", which he contends has resulted in fiercer competition for blue-collar jobs for native-born Americans and introduces increased national security concerns.
Critics said the Knavs' ability to secure green cards and citizenship smacks of hypocrisy given the President's hard-line immigration stance.
"This is the most anti-immigration administration probably in history of the country except when it comes to this family, and the hypocrisy is just stunning," said David Leopold, an immigration lawyer in Cleveland. "He and his administration are on a crusade to rid the country of immigrants, particularly immigrants of colour. What can you say when the First Lady and her family have such an easy time?"
Melania Trump's own immigration path also has been scrutinised. A former model known as Melania Knauss, she arrived in New York in 1996 and began dating Trump in 2000.
In 2001, Knauss was granted a green card in the elite EB-1 program, which was designed for renowned academic researchers, multinational business executives or those in other fields, such as Olympic athletes and Oscar-winning actors, who demonstrated "sustained national and international acclaim".
The year that Knauss got her legal residency, only five people from Slovenia received green cards under the EB-1 program, according to the State Department.