The President of the United States Donald Trump on Monday kicked up concerns among immigrants after he directed his administration to reform the H-1B visa system and move in the direction of merit-based immigration. He further suspended H-1B, L-1, and other temporary visas given to the immigrants seeking to live and work in the US citing the protection of local workers facing unemployment amid pandemic.
The move has reaffirmed Trump's former anti-immigration agenda and yet again raised questions on the welfare of immigrants and minorities in the US, which is headed for Presidential elections in November this year with Trump running for reelection.
The move has brought to light yet another old debate - about how Donald Trump's wife and First Lady Melania Trump, a Slovenian national at birth, became an American citizen.
If it weren't for the H1B visa, the President might never have met the then Slovenian model and actor whom he was introduced to at a party in 1998.
Though the H1B visa is particularly meant to ensure the flow of skilled technicians and workers into the US and is offered to those working in specialist professions such as computer science, biotechnology, research, etc, overseas models back in the 1990s required VISAs to live and work in the US.
After arriving in the US in 1996 on a tourist visa, the First Lady, then known by her maiden name Melania Knauss, applied for several visas for skilled workers in the US before finally getting an EB1 visa (known colloquially as the Einstein Visa) in 2001. She became an American citizen in 2006.
Once a citizen, Melania was able to sponsor her parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, who arrived on Slovenia on similar working visas. As per reports in 2018, they were under the process of filing for citizenship.
With Trump suspending the H1B and other VISAs for skilled workers, many on social media recalled that had such rules existed previously, Melania would probably never become the First Lady. Questions were also raised on her eligibility for the "Einstein Visa" (EB-1) which is usually reserved for person of great skill such as Oscar, Pulitzer or Nobel winners and other accomplished and gifted individuals.
Never forget that Melania Trump is a birther. She and her orange hubby spent years calling for Obama’s birth certificate. I am calling for her legal immigration papers: How the hell did you get an “Einstein” visa despite your blatant lie under oath about college degrees, @FLOTUS?— Andrea Junker (@Strandjunker) June 19, 2020
Many also wondered whether Melania and her parents would now be deported after the visa suspensions.
Where was this idea when Melania Trump was on a visa?— Michael (@iammikejv) June 22, 2020
Isn't H1-B the visa that Melania Trump claimed she came to the U.S. on? The visa that's supposed to be reserved for highly skilled people? https://t.co/pdev1YR4zQ— LaurenBaratzLogsted (@LaurenBaratzL) June 22, 2020
This is not the first time that such questions have been raised against Melania Trump's citizenship. Previously, questions have been raised not just on the allegedly dubious process of her green card approval and citizenship via the EB-1 visa but also the initial visas she had aquired to come to the US and work as a model.
Several accusations of her alleged illegal immigration to the US surfaced in 2016 during the last leg of husband and then the Republican Part's Presidential nominee's election campain in 2016.
Melania, however, has always maintained that she arrived in the country legally and never violated the terms of her immigration status. During the presidential campaign, she has cited her story to defend her husband’s hard-line on immigration.
Melania, who sometimes worked as a model under just her first name, has said through an attorney that she first came to the U.S. from Slovenia on Aug. 27, 1996, on a B1/B2 visitor visa and then obtained an H-1B work visa on Oct. 18, 1996.
The White House, nevertheless, said in a statement that the changes to visa laws would help protect the salaries of American workers and ensure that foreign labour coming into the US is high-skilled and do not undercut the United States labour market.
The statement went on to say that the Trump administration would reform the system to prioritise skilled workers and protect American jobs.
(With inputs from AP)