Turns out that Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, might not have been the only model to have skirted immigration laws when first working in the United States, Mother Jones reported Tuesday. Interviews with three former models who had been signed to work for Trump Model Management all claim that not only did the agency actively bring models to the U.S. to work illegally without the proper visas necessary for such work, but it also helped models avoid compliance with immigration laws and housed models in tenementlike dorms while charging them exorbitant rent prices.
The women, two of whom agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, claim they were told by Trump Model Management to lie to customs officials when entering the U.S. about the nature of their travel to the country and where they would be living throughout their stay.
One of the models says that she repeatedly asked agency staffers when she would be able to work legally in the United States. After her questions were avoided for weeks, she says she was ultimately told two days before her scheduled departure for the U.S. to get a tourist visa — a visa that does not permit its holder to legally work — and the agency would work things out later. She says no further action was ever taken by the agency to secure the necessary visas and documentation for her to work legally.
All three also say Trump Model Management sponsored only legal work visas for its top moneymakers.
Additionally, they describe the Trump Model Management apartment as a two-floor, three-bedroom apartment in New York City’s East Village. A representative for the modeling agency lived on the ground floor in one of the bedrooms and the two remaining bedrooms were filled with a total of 5 sets of bunk beds, they say. A mattress on the floor of the common room provided an additional bed. The models say the apartment could be occupied by 11 or more models at a time, and they report paying $1,200 to $1,600 a month rent to Trump Model Management, not the landlord, to live in the crowded quarters, amounts far above the average rent prices at the time for a studio apartment in the same neighborhood.
Rachel Blais, the one model who spoke on the record, told Mother Jones that Trump Model Management is “the most crooked agency I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for quite a few.”
Mother Jones reached out to the Trump campaign and spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to comment. “That has nothing to do with me or the campaign,” she said. Hicks directed any questions regarding the matter to the modeling agency, which did not respond to multiple requests to be quoted.
There are two types of work visas available for foreign models wishing to legally work in the United States, the H-1B3 and the O-1. Both require that applicants demonstrate marked success and exceptional ability in their field to qualify, making these visas more difficult to attain for models at the beginning of their careers who are hoping to gain traction through working in the United States. Both also require the sponsorship of a U.S. employer — or in the case of most models, their U.S.-based agency.
Republican presidential nominee and former reality television star Donald Trump owns an 85 percent stake in Trump Model Management and has earned almost $2 million from the company, according to financial records disclosed by his campaign this spring.