The much-discussed (and viewed) nude photos of Melania Trump released Monday by the New York Post could compromise one of the key components of the billionaire wife’s self-proclaimed history, namely, that she immigrated to the United States through the proper channels after working legally as a model for several years.
“It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are,” she told the New Yorker in 2016. “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.”
Melania Trump has never clarified which visa she used to enter the United States beyond a head nod to DuJour reporter Mickey Rapkin when he asked whether she came on a H-1B work visa. “When I interviewed Melania, I mentioned that she’d come to New York on that H-1B visa, and she nodded in agreement,” Rapkin said. An H-1B work visa would have allowed Trump to work as a model during her stay in the United States.
But a Politico investigation released Thursday revealed Trump’s comments about needing “to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa” are more consistent with a B-1 short-term temporary business visitor or B-1 tourist visa, which would have precluded her from working as a model. Trump would likely not have had to return to Europe to renew an H-1B visa.
A partner at a Washington based law firm that specializes in immigration told Politico if Trump worked on a B-1 visa “there is a potential problem.”
“She would not have been authorized to work in the U.S. while on a B-1 visa,” the source said. “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.”
The images also call into question the wannabe first lady’s timeline of her immigration to the United States. Trump has said she originally came into the country in 1996, but the nude photographs were taken in 1995. Further, her first known roommate in New York, Matthew Atanian, told Politico he shared an apartment with the model from 1995 to 1996. The biography Melania Trump: The Inside Story by Bojan Požar and Igor Omerza also states Trump, “began moving to New York in 1995.”
“In 1995 she started coming to the USA according to the jobs she was getting at fashion agencies,” wrote Požar told Politico. “We don’t know the exact dates of those before she officially settled in New York but her visits prior to that were temporary business opportunities that she had as a model.”
For her part, Trump denies these claims. On Twitter Thursday, she wrote, "In recent days there has been a lot of inaccurate reporting and misinformation concerning my immigration status back in 1996. Let me set the record straight: I have at all times been in full compliance with the immigration laws of this country. Period.”
But news of discrepancies with Trump's immigration come in the wake of another misleading claim. Last month, several news organizations reported that Trump fibbed both on her website and during the Republican National Convention by asserting Melania Trump received her degree in design and architecture in Slovenia before pursuing a career as a model. But in The Inside Story, Požar and Omerza write Trump “became—and remained—a college dropout.” Any reference to a college degree has since been scrubbed from her website.
Questions around Trump’s immigration process strike at a very core issue of her husband’s campaign. For one, despite some reports that his wife came through an H-1B visa (and regardless of whether or not that’s true), one of the few concrete platform promises Donald Trump has made is to “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. No exceptions.”
Well, maybe one exception.