Melania Trump Broke U.S. Immigration Law To Work as a Model In 1996

When Melania Trump spoke on Thursday, the irony gene wasn’t the only thing missing in her scripted narrative. While painting a picture of the ideal immigrant who followed the law, she avoided giving answers to questions about her immigration status when she began her modeling career.

According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, Melania was paid $20,056 for 10 modeling jobs that occurred in the seven weeks before she got a work visa. This is based on accounting ledgers, contracts and related documents reviewed by the AP.

In other words, Melania Trump was an undocumented worker, or in the vernacular of Trump’s campaign “an illegal.”

A partner in the now defunct modeling agency that signed Trump verified its contract with her and his signature on it. Melania Trump’s signature was verified by comparing it with her signature on her marriage certificate in 2005.

Back in August, when Politico published a story raising questions about Melania’s immigration story, she tweeted a letter written by her attorney.

According to that letter, Melania arrived from Slovenia on August 27,1996 on a B1/B2 visitor’s visa. She acquired her first H1B visa on October 18, 1996.

While Melania could have negotiated a contracted under the B1/B2, she wasn’t eligible to work in the United States until she got the H1B visa, a visa Donald would like to eliminate.
According to AP’s reporting, ledgers show Melania earned $20,056 for 10 modeling assignments during that period before she got her H1B visa.

The accounting ledgers for the firm’s models were listed on hundreds of pages of continuously fed paper that appeared yellowed with age. They were authenticated by a former employee who worked at the firm at the time. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because this person feared retaliation and threats from Trump’s presidential campaign.

The AP report also relies on exhibit markings on the documents which are “consistent with documents filed in New York state court.”

Some of the ledgers identify Melania Trump by her professional name, detailing her involvement with the agency between July 1996 and September 26, 1997. Others identify her as Melania Knaus, listing her gross earnings for the period before she acquired her work visa. The documents also reveal the company paid Melania’s rent, lent her money and paid for her pager. Finally, the documents show the firm deducted federal taxes from Melania’s gross earnings.

This is a story about a model from Slovenia who is much like the typical undocumented workers Melania and her husband vilified throughout this election season.

Questions surrounding Melania’s legal status when she began her modeling career in the United States have been swirling since August, following reports by CBS and GQ that she falsely claimed to have earned a college degree in Slovenia.

As Politico reported,

“Representatives of the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization did not address detailed questions about the timing and circumstances of Melania Trump’s arrival in the country, but campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded to the emailed questions by stating, “Melania followed all applicable laws and is now a proud citizen of the United States.”

In a statement issued hours after POLITICO published this report, Trump reiterated on Thursday that she had been “at all times in compliance with the immigration laws of this country.” But her statement conspicuously avoids addressing multiple reports and photographs that place her in the United States and working as a model in 1995, as well as her multiple past statements that she would return every few months to Europe to renew her visa. (Other news outlets, including Bloomberg View, have also noted the inconsistencies in her account.)”

Chances are if the Trumps were less strident in their expressed contempt for undocumented immigrants, these details wouldn’t matter. But they do matter given Donald Trump’s rhetoric and his calls for policies that include broader use of E-verify. Trump also noted that federal law prohibits illegally paying immigrants.

This news is unlikely to affect Melania Trump’s citizenship status – under current application of existing law. Under the law, the government can try to revoke citizenship when it determines a naturalized citizen “willfully misrepresented or concealed facts relevant to his naturalization.” In practice, the government only takes that step in cases involving terrorism or war crimes. One high profile example is John Demanjuk, aka Ivan the Terrible.

Ironically, Melania would have been protected under President Obama’s executive order on prioritizing deportations. That order would deport violent felons first, something Melania obviously is not.

In Donald Trump’s America, someone with Melania’s story would be deported automatically. If they tried to enter the country again under similar legal circumstances, they would face jail time before being deported again. Unlike Melania, they would have to show documentation vs. the just believe approach used by the Trump campaign.

The fact that Melania used her story, most recently in her speech on Thursday, to justify support for her husband’s hard-line rhetoric and policies makes its veracity relevant to the election.

As a young entrepreneur, I wanted to follow my dream to a place where freedom and opportunity were in abundance. So of course, I came here,” she said. “Living and working in America was a true blessing, but I wanted something more. I wanted to be an American.

One can’t fault Melania Trump for her dreams. However, she crosses the line when she crushes the dreams of other undocumented immigrants by pointing to her official experience – an experience that is based on a fairy tale.