Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, is in the crosshairs of the mainstream media once again. When the New York Post recently published some racy nude photos from Melania’s early modeling days in New York City, they unwittingly revealed that the aspiring first lady first came to the Big Apple in 1995, not 1996 as she’s repeatedly claimed. That prompted Politico to do some digging, and in a lengthy article published Thursday they speculate that Trump may have been illegally working in the U.S. on a tourist visa:
In a February interview with Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump repeated that characterization of her early years in the United States. “I never thought to stay here without papers. I had visa. I travel every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa. I came back. I applied for the green card. I applied for the citizenship later on.”
Trump’s tale of returning to Europe for periodic visa renewals is inconsistent with her holding an H-1B visa at all times she was living in New York — even if it was the lesser-known H-1B visa specifically designed for models — said multiple immigration attorneys and experts. An H-1B visa can be valid for three years and can be extended up to six years — sometimes longer — and would not require renewals in Europe every few months. If, as she has said, Trump came to New York in 1996 and obtained a green card in 2001, she likely would not have had to return to Europe even once to renew an H-1B.
Instead, Trump’s description of her periodic renewals in Europe are more consistent with someone traveling on a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor or B-2 Tourist Visa, which typically last only up to six months and do not permit employment.
If someone were to enter the United States on one of those visas with the intention of working, it could constitute visa fraud, according to Andrew Greenfield, a partner at the Washington office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, a firm that specializes in immigration law.
The Trump campaign has thus far been silent about Melania’s immigration records, but she took to Twitter herself to denounce reports that she was working in the country illegally:
— MELANIA TRUMP (@MELANIATRUMP) August 4, 2016
Given how outspoken her husband has been against illegal immigration, it’s no wonder that the mainstream media has latched onto this story. However, as Ashe Schow point out in the Washington Examiner, regardless of whether Politico‘s reporting is correct it highlights the fact that U.S. immigration issues are not black and white:
Even if you assume everything in the Politico article is correct and Melania must have had a travel visa – meaning it was illegal for her to work in the U.S. as a model – she could just as easily be more a victim of unscrupulous modeling agencies than a person determined to work in the U.S. illegally.
“Violations of U.S. visa law are hardly unusual, particularly in the modeling industry,” wrote Ben Schreckinger and Gabriel Debenedetti. “It was a common practice in the 1990s in New York for less scrupulous agencies to bring in foreign models to work illegally on temporary business and tourist visas,” according to Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance, a group that advocates improved labor standards for fashion models.
Clearly, illegal immigration isn’t the only problem the U.S. faces. Legal immigration could use reform, too.