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Illegal models terkin' our jerbs!


You might have thought this week's news had gotten quite stupid enough for everyone, what with the Republican candidate for president at war with the family of a U.S. solider killed in the line of duty, the rebirth of birtherism, the candidate's petulant undermining of other Republicans' campaigns, and of course his continued refusal to release his goddamned taxes. Oh, but of course there's more! Now it looks like the candidate's wife, Melania Trump, just might have been illegally working on a tourist visa when she first came to these United States back in 1995-96.

The Politico story on then-Melania Knauss's immigration status gets into some really detailed weeds of immigration law, and we're not going to try and reconstruct the whole argument here, but it appears some of the things Melania and Donald Trump have said about her earliest years in the Land of the Free indicate she may have been working as a model when she was actually here on a tourist visa, which doesn't allow the holder to work. Trump campaign spokesdoofus Hope Hicks wouldn't respond to Politico's detailed questions about Melania's immigration status in the '90s, instead issuing a flat denial that there could ever have been a problem: "Melania followed all applicable laws and is now a proud citizen of the United States."

Oh, but maybe not so. Here's the nitty: Melania Trump has described traveling between the USA and Slovenia back then in ways that would make sense if she'd been here on a tourist visa, but not if she'd had a visa allowing her to work:

In a January profile in Harper’s Bazaar, Trump said she would return home from New York to renew her visa every few months. “It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are,” she said. “You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa. After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001.”

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.”

Problem is, if she'd had an H-1B visa allowing her to work in U.S. America, she wouldn't have ever needed to periodically return to Europeland to get her visa stamped. (Also, a thing we learned from the article: there's even a special H-1B visa that's "specifically designed for models.") H-1B visas are usually valid for three years, and can be extended up to six years, with no requirement to go home to the land of Slovenes to get a single thing stamped. If she were instead working as a model in the USA on a tourist visa, that could be a bit of a problem for our potential First Lady:

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.

How do you like that! Another immigration lawyer said that if a model went back and forth between Europe and the US on a tourist or temporary business visa with the intention of working, she could be in big trouble, and it could go on her Permanent Record:

She would not have been authorized to work in the U.S. while on a B-1 visa. In fact, if a customs agent encounters someone entering the U.S. on a B-1 visa and they know that the individual intends to work for a U.S. employer, the individual will usually be denied admission. In order to avoid being sent back to Slovenia, she may have had to lie about the purpose of her trip.

And here's where we get into some really amusing potential legal ramifications, unlikely though they might be to actually play out:

Visa fraud would call into question a green card application and subsequent citizenship application, said immigration lawyers — thus raising questions about Melania Trump’s legal status, even today, despite her marriage to a U.S. citizen.

Now, none of this is absolutely certain; nobody's seen a copy of her Slovenian passport, and Melania's statements about her travels are only circumstantial evidence. The Trump Organization isn't releasing diddly. In fact, Politico acknowledges, it's not even absolutely clear when Melania Knauss first came to New York -- she has always said 1996.

Weirdly enough, one other bit of evidence that she may have circumvented immigration regulations comes from those hott girl-on-girl nude cheesecake photos the New York Post published earlier this week: the photos were taken in New York in 1995 and published in the January 1996 issue of a now-defunct French magazine. And for that photo shoot to have been legal, she'd have needed an H-1B visa, not a tourist visa, even if she were only visiting New York. The guy who arranged Melania's early work in the US says all the models he worked for had the proper visas, but again, if Melania Knauss had an H-1B, why would she say she was going back to Europe to get it stamped? That's not how H-1B visas work. That's not how any of this works.

Not surprisingly, Melania Trump issued a statement Thursday denying any wrongdoing, using the preferred method of documentation of the Trump campaign, Twitter:

We figure it will take about an hour for somebody to figure out significant portions of the statement were cribbed from Johnny Depp's statement about his illegal doggies in Australia.

Also, if the Trumps can't actually produce documentation that Melania was working in the USA legally in 1995-96, we'd be willing to overlook that if Donald Trump released his tax returns. That would completely make up for the immigration stuff.

[Politico / The Hill]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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