Melania Trump Makes Rare Public Appearance in Naturalization Ceremony

Melania Trump Makes Rare Public Appearance in Naturalization Ceremony


The nation’s only naturalized citizen to become a first lady, Mrs. Trump described her own journey and encouraged immigrants to contribute to American society.

Melania Trump, the former first lady of the United States, in a rare public appearance on Dec. 15, recounted her difficult path to U.S. citizenship as she welcomed 25 newly naturalized citizens.

“It is my privilege to share this great nation, America, with you,” the wife of former President Donald Trump said Dec. 15 at the U.S. National Archives’ rotunda, “in the presence of the Declaration of Independence … arguably one of the most important documents of all time.”

The Constitution and America’s other founding documents are also preserved and displayed at the Archives’ museum in Washington, adding to the symbolism of Friday’s ceremony.

“You are American,” Mrs. Trump, who was born in Slovenia, told the new citizens. “Be a beacon of inspiration for your children and those who follow in your footsteps. May your journey continue to be filled with endless possibilities. And may your contributions enrich the fabric of this great nation.”

Mrs. Trump described the hurdles that legal immigrants face at a time when her Republican husband’s successor, Democrat President Joe Biden, is being blamed for a surge of illegal immigrants burdening U.S. cities.

The former first lady made this rare public appearance after accepting an invitation from the National Archives, the agency whose dispute with her husband led to the FBI’s August 2022 raid of the Trumps’ Florida home.

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Agents found records with classified markings, leading to criminal accusations that he mishandled those documents; he has denied wrongdoing.

Mrs. Trump stood by her husband’s side when he announced his third presidential run more than a year ago. But the former FLOTUS has been absent from the campaign trail and also hasn’t appeared with President Trump during the multiple court hearings he has faced this year.

In September, the former president told NBC’s Meet The Press that he prefers to keep his wife out of the fray of “nasty” politics, but said she would join a campaign event “when it’s appropriate.” The soft-spoken Mrs. Trump generally has kept a lower profile than many other first ladies.

Difficulty of Obtaining Citizenship

On Friday, U.S. Archivist Colleen Shogan introduced Mrs. Trump as “the only first lady in American history who was also a naturalized citizen.” Thus, Mrs. Trump understands the significance of a naturalization ceremony, said Ms. Shogan, who became the agency’s head this May, nine months after the FBI raid.

Mrs. Trump told the new citizens, who hail from 25 different countries, that they all share the same responsibility now that they are Americans: “It means actively participating in the democratic process and guarding our freedom. It also means leading by example and contributing to our society.”

Becoming a naturalized citizen is a “life-altering” process that requires determination, she said.

Mrs. Trump made no mention of the controversial immigration policies that her husband’s successor has pushed, such as granting citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants.

She described her journey to U.S. citizenship as a “labyrinth” of legal paperwork.

She said her Slovenian parents inspired her fashion and modeling career. “While working internationally had its share of rules and regulations, it wasn’t until I moved to New York City in 1996 that the system truly tested my determination,” she said.

Noting that information technology wasn’t well-developed during her attempt to become a naturalized citizen, the future Mrs. Trump hired a lawyer to navigate the “intricate web” of legalities. This “brought me over the finish line as a naturalized citizen,” she said. That happened in 2006.

“While challenges were numerous, there were rewards well worth the effort,” Mrs. Trump said, telling the new citizens: “I applaud you for every step you took, every obstacle you overcome, and every sacrifice you made.”

This experience opened her eyes “to the harsh realities people face” when they try to become U.S. citizens, she said.

New Citizens From 25 Nations

Although Mrs. Trump said her dream of U.S. citizenship “pushed me to meticulously gather every last piece of information required, ensuring that no detail was overlooked,” some news outlets have raised questions about her immigration history.

In 2016, The Associated Press published a story stating that Mrs. Trump earned about $20,000 in modeling jobs several weeks before she received a visa allowing her to work in the United States. The former first lady has maintained that she followed all immigration laws and complied with the terms of her immigration status.

The AP story was published four days before the presidential election that pitted then-candidate Donald Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

But during a broadcast of Friday’s ceremony, there was no hint of controversy.

The new citizens smiled as each posed for a photo with Mrs. Trump, Ms. Shogan, and Judge Elizabeth Gunn, a U.S. bankruptcy judge for the District of Columbia who administered the oath of citizenship.

These newly minted Americans hailed from Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Cameroon, China, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom.

The ceremony honoring them was held in conjunction with the Archives’ annual celebration of Bill of Rights Day.

On Dec. 15, 1791, Congress ratified the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked that Dec. 15 be designated as ” a day of remembrance of the democratic and peaceful action by which these rights were gained.”

“For 232 years, this landmark document has guaranteed our freedoms of religion, speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for redress of grievances,” the National Archives noted in a news release.

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