President Donald Trump may be best known for his stance on immigrants. From his campaign promises to build a wall to keep undocumented Mexican immigrants out, to his executive order to temporarily bar refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., the president is widely considered not a friend to non-white immigrants. And yet, his wife, Melania Trump, is an immigrant herself. So for those wondering whether his marriage makes Trump a hypocrite, how long has Melania Trump been in the U.S.?
Melania was born in Slovenia, which was once known as Yugoslavia, in 1970. She began modeling as a child, and by 1992, Melania won an international modeling contract after coming in second in a contest. Her win led to her modeling in France and Italy. “I love my childhood; it was a beautiful childhood," Melania told GQ magazine.
But though she appreciates the life she lived in Slovenia, she knew if she wanted to make it big as a model she had to make a change. “She wanted to leave,” a friend from Melania's university days in Ljubljana told GQ. Melania first got her U.S. work visa in 1996, which was a source of controversy when The New York Post published revealing photos of Melania that were incorrectly dated.
Melania assured the public in an interview with Harper's Bazaar that she followed the legal steps to come here:
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. After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001. After the green card, I applied for citizenship. And it was a long process.
And while it's great that Melania followed the rules, it's important to remember that the green card holders and refugees impacted by Trump's temporary travel ban are also following the rules, because they are allowed to be in the U.S. legally.
Melania met her now-husband at a party in 1998, and the two married in 2005, before she was an American citizen. She gave birth to their son Baron in March of 2006. Melania became an American citizen on July 28, 2006, which she spoke about at the Republican National Convention. She emphasized that she "cannot or will not take the freedoms this country offers for granted."
But no matter how much she says she loves this country, Melania is never too far from her Slovenic roots — she taught her son Barron how to speak Slovene. In total, she speaks six languages — Slovene, Serbian, English, French, German, and Italian.
Melania is actually not the first first lady who was born in another country - that honor belongs to Louisa Adams, John Quincy Adams' wife.
Despite coming to America to live out the American Dream, Melania has defended the fact that her husband is trying to prevent others from achieving that very goal.
"He wants to protect America. He wants to protect the people of America,” Melania said in an interview on MSNBC. “That’s very important to him. What’s going on in the world, it’s very dangerous. You have people coming into the country, you don’t know who they are."
But what this statement seems to overlook is that many of the refugees seeking asylum are families with children. It's unclear how a 5-year-old child is a danger to the U.S., or even how his parents and siblings would be dangerous when they are running from the same terrorists and threatening people that Melania said Trump seeks to protect the U.S. from.