The Melania Trump Immigration File

mt-model-abilityAs I wrote in yesterday’s post, it is important that we understand Melania Trump’s immigration story because she has stated, on numerous times, that she did it the “right way” and her husband, Donald Trump, has made immigration the center piece of his presidential campaign. Although Melania Trump has not been forthcoming about her immigration story, I have begun putting together a dossier about her immigration experience. It is based on public records. The dossier is an important part of the immigration dialog because doing it the “right way” is the fundamental battle cry for immigration reform.

Melania Trump was born on April 26, 1970 in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, formerly Yugoslavia [2] According to the public record, Melania Trump entered the United States on August 27, 1996 for the first time using a B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant visa. [4] On October 18, 1996, Melania Trump was issued the first, of five, one-year H-1B visas. [1] These visas allowed her to live and work legally in the United States. As an H-1B visa holder, Melania Trump was legally considered a nonimmigrant visa holder, although she could live and work in the country. Her first H-1B visa was issued by the United States Embassy in Slovenia.

According to previous news reports, Paolo Zampolli, owner of various fashion talent business related agencies, is the individual who sponsored Melania Trump’s H1-B visa through one of his modelling agencies. [4] H1-B visas must have a sponsor who guarantees a salary and work to the immigrant who uses the visa.

On March 19, 2001, Melania Trump was admitted into the country as a “permanent resident” immigrant, also known as a “green card” holder. According to her attorney, Melania Trump self-sponsored herself for the green card under the “extraordinary ability” designation. [1]

As an immigrant and a green card holder myself, I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to acquire a green card and how extremely difficult it is to process one by self-sponsoring oneself. The vast majority of green card recipients are sponsored by a family member or via other sponsors dependent on the classification. There is also a “lottery” that awards green cards to individuals based on their country of origin. There are many more green card applicants then there are spaces allotted each year.

Because of this, it is important to understand the significance of self-sponsoring oneself for a green card, especially under the designation of “extraordinary ability.”

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the “EB-1” visa for “extraordinary ability” is issued to immigrants that can demonstrate “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim.” The applicant must “meet 3 of the 10 criteria…or provide one-time achievement (i.e., Pulitzer, Oscar, Olympic Medal)”.

The ten criteria are:

“recipient of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence, membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members, published material about the applicant in professional or major trade publications or other major media, having been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel, original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field, authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media, work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases, performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations, command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field and commercial successes in the performing arts.”

So the obvious question is how much international achievement Melania Trump had accumulated prior to “self-sponsoring herself”?

Modelling is a highly subjective type of work as models are ranked based on their presence in advertising or other publications. Generally, there are two general ways to classify the success of a model – there tear sheets or being designated as a “supermodel.”

There is no single-recognized entity that ranks supermodels over the years as each fashion magazine and other listing agencies create their own rankings based on their own criteria. Regardless, after reviewing various supermodel rankings over the years I was not able to find one that included Melania Trump, or Melania Knauss, the name she modelled professionally under. Anyone that has ever given any thought to supermodels readily knows the names; Noami Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer or Gisele Bündchen, among many others. However, the name Melania Knauss and “supermodel,” to my knowledge was never used together.

That brings us to what models use as their trade proof of their abilities – the tear sheet. The tear sheet for a model is basically a portfolio of the work they have completed. It is called a tear sheet because it is representative of magazine covers or magazine pages or advertising that are torn out and compiled into a portfolio to showcase the model’s work. The more successful the model, the more covers and magazine pages they have graced. Obviously, the better known magazines or publications the higher weight the experience the model carries in their portfolio.

A potential client of the model uses the tear sheet to ascertain the experience and the “look” of the model for their project.

A model’s tear sheet is likely one of the forms of evidence a model may submit along with their application for a green card via the “extraordinary ability” visa designation.

Since I do not have Melania Trump’s tear sheet, I set out to create a sample one for her.

mt-model-tearsheet

Obviously I do not have a full tear sheet for her but remember that Melania Trump has argued that she attained a green card under the “extraordinary ability” designation. Because of that I should have been able to find a good representation of work, as a model, that she had completed prior to 2001, when she was approved for a green card.

Now, as you look through the tear sheet, ask yourselves this question, does the tear sheet represent an “extraordinary ability” in the modelling industry?

It might seem simple to dismiss the controversy as simple as she did it the “right way” but even if we accept that Melania Trump secured a green card through “extraordinary ability” is her body of work, really the type of “extraordinary ability” that green cards should be processed by?

However, there still remains a serious question about the narrative that Melania Trump has put forth. Remember that Melania Trump has told everyone that she did it the “right way”. I would argue that she is proud of doing it the “right way”.

If I am right, wouldn’t Melania Trump rightfully be proud of self-sponsoring herself for a green card under the “extraordinary ability” designation? If it were me, I would post the “extraordinary ability” letter everywhere I could because it signifies something that very few can accomplish.

So where is Melania Trump’s “extraordinary ability” letter?

Sources:

1. Wildes, Michael J.; U.S. immigration attorney with Wildes & Weinberg, PC in letter dated September 14, 2016
2. Biography.com accessed on September 15, 2016
3. Vincent, Isabel; New York Post, July 30, 2016
4. Cooper, Anderson; CNN interview on February, 2016 {verify}
5. Collins, Lauren; The New Yorker, May 9, 2016 issue
6. Reyes, Gerardo; Univision, September 11, 2016

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