Melania Trump makes rare appearance to welcome new US citizens

In a rare public appearance, former first lady Melania Trump stressed the importance of "guarding our freedom" and the responsibilities that accompany American citizenship as she spoke Friday at a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives.

Born in Slovenia, Melania Trump is the only first lady who is also a naturalized U.S. citizen. She recounted her path to that citizenship, beginning with a worker visa upon arriving in New York City during her career as a model.

"How fortunate to be with the naturalizing individuals and their families as they recite the Oath of Allegiance and become Americans before our great nation’s founding documents," she said.

Former US First Lady Melania Trump speaks during a Naturalization Ceremony at the National Archives building in Washington, DC on December 15, 2023. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

The location of the ceremony was notable. The national repository for presidential documents has featured as part of one of the criminal cases pending against her husband, former President Donald Trump, as he seeks a second term in the White House.

The National Archives sent a referral to the FBI stating that 15 boxes recovered from Trump’s Florida home in January 2022 contained dozens of documents with classified markings, part of an investigation that has resulted in 37 counts of mishandling classified documents, including retaining classified information and obstructing justice.

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Trump's trial is scheduled to begin on May 20, 2024, despite efforts by his team to postpone it until after next November’s presidential election.

Friday's ceremony marked a rare appearance for the former first lady, who has said she supports her husband's campaign but has not yet been on the campaign trail as he seeks the 2024 GOP nomination.

She said Friday that becoming a U.S. citizen comes with a great deal of responsibility.

Former US First Lady Melania Trump stands alongside Judge Elizabeth Gunn (L) and Archivist of the US. Colleen Shogan (R). as they pose for photographs with a newly-sworn in citizens following a Naturalization Ceremony at the National Archives in Wash

"It means actively participating in the democratic process and guarding our freedom," she said. "It is a life-altering experience that takes time, determination and sometimes even tremendous strength."

In his latest campaign for the White House, Trump has promised a return to hard-line immigration policies if he wins the 2024 election.

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Among his proposals, Trump wants to revive and expand his controversial travel ban, which initially targeted seven Muslim-majority countries, begin new "ideological screening" for all immigrants and end the constitutional right to birthright citizenship by signing an executive order his first day in office. That would only permit children with at least one U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent to be eligible for a passport, Social Security number and other benefits.

Friday's ceremony featured 25 people from 25 nations being sworn in as new U.S. citizens, surrounded by founding documents including the Constitution.