‘You are Americans’: Melania tells new U.S. citizens from 25 countries how hard it was to become an American when she moved from Slovenia in 1996 and urges them to ‘stand their ground’ in moving naturalization ceremony

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Melania Trump: ‘For me reaching the milestone marked the sunrise of certainty.’ 
  • ‘At that exact moment, I forever discarded the layer of burden connected whether I would be able to live in the United States.’ 
  • Melania became a US citizen in 2006 and is second foreign-born first lady

Melania Trump welcomed 25 new citizens on Friday in a rare public appearance, where she discussed the ‘harsh realities’ migrants face on the pathway to becoming an American in words that seemed to counter Donald Trump’s philosophy on immigration.

She talked about how attaining citizenship gave a sense of pride and certainty about staying in the United States as her husband said he would remove Palestinian supporters from universities and, as president, threatened to halt green card visas. 

The former first lady, dressed in a black pantsuit, spoke at a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in Washington D.C., the same agency that revealed her husband took classified documents with him when he left the White House, resulting in federal charges against him.

She is a naturalized citizen herself, having arrived in American in 1996 and becoming a citizen 10 years later.

‘You are Americans,’ she told them, congratulating them on their new status. 

Melania Trump at the National Archives on Friday

Melania Trump walks into the naturalization ceremony

Melania Trump walks into the naturalization ceremony

Melania described her journey from her childhood in Slovenia to her life in the United States along with the sense of pride she obtained from becoming an American.

‘My life turned into organizing paperwork,’ she said of her citizenship process.

‘Patience and preservence became my constant companions,’ she said. ‘For me reaching the milestone marked the sunrise of certainty. At that exact moment, I forever discarded the layer of burden connected whether I would be able to live in the United States. I hope you have similar feelings of comfort right now.’

She said becoming a citizen gave her ‘a tremendous sense of pride and belonging.’

She noted her personal experience going through the immigration system opened her eyes to the harsh reality of immigrants.

‘My personal experience of traversing the challenges of immigration process opened my eyes to the harsh reality that people face, including you who try to become U.S. Citizens.’

She advised the newly-sworn in immigrants on what it means to be a good citizen.

‘Becoming an American citizen comes with responsibility. It means actively participating in the democratic process and guarding our freedom. It also means leading by example and contributing to our society. It is a life altering experience that takes time, determination and sometimes even tremendous strength. You are now a part of a nation with a rich history of progress, innovation and resilience,’ she said.

She concluded with ‘be proud of yourself. Stand your ground and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead. You are American.’

The former first lady sat quietly in the front row while the new citizens took the oath from a federal judge. Behind her, on display, where the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. 

She was invited to speak by US Archivist Colleen Shogan, who had met Trump when Shogan worked at the White House Historical Association during Melania Trump’s tenure as first lady.

Shogan, in introducing Trump, pointed out she ‘knows what it’s like at a naturalization ceremony.’

Melania Trump, who was born in Slovenia in 1970, became a US citizen in 2006. She is only the country’s second foreign-born first lady.

In her childhood, Melania’s father Viktor was a Communist Party member under Yugoslav dictator Marshal Tito, and as Melania grew up the family lived in a string of modest apartments. Melania’s mother Amalija worked as an executive in a textile factory.

She started modeling in Europe and, in 1996, moved to New York City. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2006 and then sponsored her parents to become American citizens.  

Melania Trump as a child in Slovenia

Melania Trump as a child in Slovenia

Melania Trump talks with Colleen Shogan when she was first lady in 2020

Melania Trump talks with Colleen Shogan when she was first lady in 2020

Friday’s naturalization event comes nearly two years after the National Archives and Record Administration asked the Justice Department to investigate Donald Trump’s handling of documents from his tenure in the White House. 

The probe led to an indictment of the former president who has pleaded not guilty to 37 federal charges. The trial in this case is expected to start in Florida in May. 

Donald Trump has pledged a widespread expansion of hardline immigration policies if elected again in 2024 that would restrict both legal and illegal immigration.

During the Trump administration, Melania did not appear to be involved in immigration issues – particularly after her controversial visit to a migrant detention center on the southern border in 2018 when she wore her now-infamous ‘I really don’t care, do u?’ jacket.

Melania Trump was born in Slovenia in 1970 and came to the U.S. in 1996

Melania Trump was born in Slovenia in 1970 and came to the U.S. in 1996

Melania Trump made a rare appearance last month at the funeral for Rossalyn Carter, joining former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton

Melania Trump made a rare appearance last month at the funeral for Rossalyn Carter, joining former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton

As first lady, Melania Trump visited migrant detention center on the southern border in 2018 where she wore her now-infamous 'I really don't care, do u?' jacket

As first lady, Melania Trump visited migrant detention center on the southern border in 2018 where she wore her now-infamous ‘I really don’t care, do u?’ jacket

Melania Trump has largely avoided the public eye since leaving Washington in January 2021. She has been seen in social media posts from guests visiting the Trump clubs at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida; and in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

She made a rare appearance last month at the funeral for Rossalyn Carter, joining former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton.

Notably, Melania Trump hasn’t been by Donald Trump’s side as he fights his many legal battles in New York, Georgia, and federal courts. 

And while Melania Trump has said she supports her husband’s bid for a second term in the White House, but she hasn’t appeared at one of his campaign events in more than a year – not since he announced his 2024 bid at Mar-a-Lago on November 15th, 2022.

In September, Donald Trump suggested his wife would soon join him on the trail.

Trump suggested his wife might join him on the campaign trail in the near future.

‘When it’s appropriate, but pretty soon,’ he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. ‘She’s a private person, a great person, a very confident person and she loves our country very much. … And honestly, I like to keep her away from it. It’s so nasty and so mean.’

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