Donald Trump has built his campaign on the promise that he will take a tough stance on immigration, even going so far as vowing to build a yuuuge wall. The best wall, no doubt. But then allegations surfaced that his own foreign-born wife, Melania, had been illegally working as a model in the United States under the wrong type of visa. Now, it turns out it isn’t just Trump’s wife who violated immigration law this way, it’s his whole modeling agency that considers this standard operating procedure.
A report in Mother Jones revealed that several models who had been employed by Trump Model Management worked in the U.S. under tourist visas rather than the required work visas.
Rachel Blais, a former Trump model, said that she came to New York from Montreal in April 2004 but did not receive an H1B3 visa until September of 2004. A letter from an immigration attorney confirms this. She worked during the months in between despite only having a tourist visa, even appearing on Trump’s show, The Apprentice.
Blais and the other models, who were listed under the names Kate and Anna to protect their identity, said they traveled in and out of the U.S. regularly and they were given specific instructions by Trump’s agency on how to get through immigration.
“When you’re stuck at immigration, say that you’re coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you’re going there to look for an agent,” Kate said she was told.
The models also said that their living arrangements were so horrendous they could be likened to “sweatshop” conditions. They were crammed into to tiny apartments filled with bunk beds and charged outrageous rental fees that were taken directly out of their pay.
Industry insiders said such practices were common in the modeling world at the time, but even so, Blais said Trump’s agency stood out as particularly shady.
“Honestly, they are the most crooked agency I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for quite a few.”
The H-1B visa program that Trump used when he decided a model was worth actually getting the legal documentation for just happens to be the same visa program he has been railing about on the campaign trail. Go figure.
“I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program,” Trump said in March. “No exceptions.”
Kate pointed out the hypocrisy of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric alongside his willingness to make money off these same immigrants if they happen to be pretty enough.
“He doesn’t like the face of a Mexican or a Muslim,” she said, “but because these [models] are beautiful girls, it’s okay? He’s such a hypocrite.”
Featured image via Mother Jones