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Ivanka Trump says her mother immigrated legally—that may not be true

CSPAN/Twitter

‘My mother… came to this country legally.’

Questions have been raised about the immigration status of President Donald Trump’s first wife Ivana after their daughter, Ivanka Trump, criticized immigrant family separations during an event on Thursday in Washington D.C.

The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which involved separating thousands of children from parents that had brought them into the country illegally, faced a serious backlash in June.

“That was a low point for me as well,” the first daughter said, speaking for the first time on the subject. “I felt very strongly about that and I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children so I would agree with that sentiment.”

Expanding on her comments, Ivanka Trump said that as “the daughter of an immigrant” she experienced these “incredibly difficult issues” in “a very emotional way” but maintained that “illegal immigration is incredibly complicated.”

“I am the daughter of an immigrant, my mother grew up in communist Czech Republic, but we are a country of laws,” the first daughter continued, talking of her mother. “She came to this country legally and we have to be very careful about incentivizing behavior that puts children at risk of being trafficked, at risk of entering this country with coyotes or making an incredibly dangerous journey alone.”

Journalist Aura Bogado of Reveal took to Twitter, pointing to Ivana Trump’s own autobiography, Raising Trump, to challenge the assertion that the president’s first wife made it to the U.S. entirely legally.

Born in the Czech Republic, as her daughter said, Ivana Trump by her own admission used a fraudulent marriage in 1971 to acquire an Austrian passport that would allow her to immigrate to Canada.

Once in Canada, she would regularly cross the border into the U.S. to work as a model, but remains unclear whether she acquired U.S. working permit to do so. On one such working trip, she met Trump, who proposed.

What’s more, her jump back across the border into Canada to pack raises some problems.

It’s particularly fascinating given how much attention has been put on the immigration history of the president’s current wife, first lady Melania Trump.

Bogado’s case is supported by the interjection of an immigration lawyer.

At the same time, in making her argument, Bogado explains that questions of legality are not so straightforward when it comes to immigration and that there are many circumstances come into play as to how society evaluates that status.

So, after her comments on Thursday, balanced between empathy and a maintaining distance to the plight of illegal immigrants, between underlining her own mother’s legality and the necessity to uphold the law, it turns out Ivanka Trump might have more in common with those affected by family separations than she first realized.

David Gilmour

David Gilmour

David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.