After months of making incendiary anti-immigrant statements and pledging to deport non-US citizens, Donald Trump is in hot water over his own employment of undocumented young women at his agency, Trump Model Management. He was exposed by former Trump models who say that they worked for the company under tourist visas that did not legally permit them to be employed in the United States. Canadian model, Rachel Blais, who worked for Trump Model Management for almost three years, provided an official financial statement as well as a letter from her immigration lawyer that showed a six-month gap between working for Trump and officially procuring a work visa. During those six months she even appeared as a model on Trump’s reality TV competition, The Apprentice. Two other models told Mother Jones Magazine that Trump’s agency encouraged the runway hopefuls to lie about their employment to immigration officials and when filling out custom forms.
Trump Model Management eventually secured an H-1B visa for Blais which allows for US companies to employ foreign workers in specialized fields. However, this fact only goes to further expose the hypocrisy of Trump. On the campaign trail he has constantly shot down the H-1B program. In March he stated:
“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, no exceptions.”
This controversy comes at a time that the Republican presidential nominee’s wife, Melania Trump, is also being questioned over her own time spent modeling in the states. A recent news story raised questions over her immigration status at the beginning of her career. So far, Ms. Trump has denied all allegations and stated that she has “at all times been in compliance with the immigration laws of this country.”
Aside from claims of being pressured to work illegally, former Trump models have also accused his agency of taking advantage of them financially, showing financial statements that prove that they were charged between $1,200 to $1,600 each to share a room with five others in a model apartment, while entire studio apartments in the same area were going for around $1,400 a month. Aside from overcharging for rent (unfortunately, a common practice among modeling agencies), Trump models were charged exorbitant fees for other expenses, such as fitness training, beauty upkeep and travel costs. Despite the fact that Blais’ career took off at Trump, she was paid only $8,000 after three years, during which she made tens of thousands of dollars for the company. She likens the working conditions at Trump to “modern-day slavery” and said of Trump Model Management, “Honestly they are the most crooked agency I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for quite a few.” Her sentiment echoes that of another former Trump model, Alexia Palmer, who filed a complaint with The Department of Labor against Trump Model Management in the Spring.
Figures courtesy of Mother Jones magazine.