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Opinion: The Trump family’s hypocrisy on immigration

Opinion by Dean Obeidallah

(CNN) — Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on Threads. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

At a naturalization ceremony this past week, former First Lady Melania Trump offered words of encouragement to some two dozen people being sworn in as some of America’s newest citizens. A day later, her husband, former President Donald Trump, was spewing vile comments about immigrants from many of the very same countries.

Melania’s remarks came at a swearing-in ceremony for new Americans Friday at the National Archives — the government agency that her husband repeatedly attacked after leaving office for seeking the return of classified documents he is alleged to have wrongly taken from the White House.

Slovenia-born Melania, who appeared at the event by way of a personal invitation from the Archivist of the United States, Colleen Shogan, a Biden appointee, shared with attendees her own struggles becoming a naturalized American.

“Traversing the challenges of the immigration process opened my eyes to the harsh realities people face, including you, who try to become US citizens,” Melania said.

One has to wonder how much greater her challenge would have been if the leading GOP candidate for president at the time had been suggesting that newcomers to America were “poisoning the blood of our country.” That’s what Donald Trump said in October and again at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday.

When Trump first made that jarring statement, many experts noted it seemed to have echoes of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and modern day White supremacists. At Saturday’s rally, the former president warned of a threat to the US emanating from a wide swath of immigrants “from Africa, from Asia, all over the world.”

The head of the Anti-Defamation League raised alarm bells about Trump’s remark, stating, “insinuating that immigrants are ‘poisoning the blood of our country’ echoes nativist talking points and has the potential to cause real danger and violence.”

The group added, “We have seen this kind of toxic rhetoric inspire real-world violence before in places like Pittsburgh and El Paso” — naming two locations where gunmen cited the threat of immigrants as justification for their deadly rampages.

But Melania didn’t mention her husband’s xenophobic statements, nor did she touch on his vow, if elected to the White House again in 2024, to make it harder to apply for asylum in the US. He has also pledged to end birthright citizenship, which extends citizen status to those who are born here, and vowed to revive his travel ban on people coming to the US from mostly Muslim countries.

The former First Lady meanwhile, urged the new Americans on Friday to embrace the responsibilities that came with US citizenship by “actively participating in the democratic process and guarding our freedom.” But there was no mention made, of course, of her husband’s efforts to undermine our democratic process with his attempted coup, for which he now faces numerous felonies in both Georgia and federal court.

And let’s not forget the laughable hypocrisy of Melania speaking at all at the National Archives, the very government agency that pleaded with her husband for months to return documents. Some of those documents, which the former president took from the White House to and back to Mar-a-Lago, were highly classified.

Trump’s refusal to return these documents led to the opening of a criminal probe by the Department of Justice that ultimately led to the former president being charged with a total of 40 felonies. In response, Trump waged public attacks on the National Archives – such as falsely claiming after his Mar-a-Lago residence was searched by the FBI in August 2022, that all the agency had to do was ask and he would have returned the documents. In reality, the Archives had made numerous requests over a several-month period for the return of the documents that Trump rebuffed.

Trump has taken aim at the National Archives ever since, lying in a social media post at the time that President Obama had been allowed to take “33 million pages of documents” to Chicago after leaving the White House. He wasn’t. In reality, the documents Trump referred to were actually being stored at an Archives facility in suburban Chicago for possible use in Obama’s future presidential library.

No, there was nothing from Melania about these attacks by her husband that led to a slew of threats and vitriol being directed at the agency and its employees. So it was no surprise when her former aide Stephanie Winston Wolkoff stated on CNN Saturday that when Melania was First Lady, she was uninterested in attending events welcoming new citizens despite being an immigrant herself. Wolkoff called Melania’s speech, “quite repulsive,” and suggested it was little more than a “publicity moment.”

We know from that it’s not that Melania can’t talk about political issues. In May, while appearing on Fox News, she said of her husband’s 2024 run for President: “He has my support, and we look forward to restoring hope for the future and leading America with love and strength.”

The truth is that the former First Lady, like untold numbers of GOP officials, refuses to denounce the despicable comments and horrific conduct of her husband. The immigrants who became citizens on Friday deserve our applause for attaining their new status. Melania Trump deserves none.

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