Last month, President Donald Trump issued an executive order for the immediate deportation of individuals who have “engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency,” who hadn’t been considered top deportation targets under Obama.
Enter Melania Trump:
On Nov. 4, the Associated Press reported that it had obtained documents showing that Melania Trump—then known as Melania Knauss or Knaus—had been paid for modeling work performed in 1996 while she was staying in the United States on a B1/B2 visitor visa, clearly violated immigration laws.
As noted by Ben Mathis-Lilley on Slate Magazine, “the lawyer representing Melania Trump did not otherwise challenge the AP report veracity or deny that she had done the work, which would have violated the terms of the tourist visa.
“Melania’s violation could have come back to haunt her even though she went on to obtain an H-1B work visa on Oct. 18, 1996, become a legal permanent resident (or “green card” holder) in 2001, and become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2006 —She married Donald Trump in 2005,” Mathis writes.
Department of Homeland Security documents released this week indicate that immigration officials are putting Trump’s instructions into practice. If Donald Trump had been president in the ’90s, would the deportation of his future wife have been considered a priority for immigration officers?
“The answer is yes,” according to two immigration attorneys —Hasan Shafiqullah, who is in charge of the immigration law unit at the Legal Aid Society, and Cheryl David, New York City immigration attorney.
“If the current executive order on interior enforcement and the related Homeland Security memoranda on interior enforcement had been in effect at that time, then she would have certainly been an enforcement priority,” attorney Hasan Shafiqullah told Mathis.
“If Melania did in fact work while using a tourist visa, she definitely violated her status, and if it came to immigration’s attention, yeah, they certainly could put her into removal proceedings,” Cheryl David said.
“To be clear, Melania would have been subject to deportation if she’d been caught even in 1996,” he added, according to Slate.
What President Trump is—ostensibly—doing is putting DHS resources toward removing individuals like Melania who’ve—allegedly—committed transgressions that previous administrations would’ve considered too minor to worry about.
“If the First Lady failed to disclose the violation in her H-1B green card application, that may have made her for ineligible for the H-1B-based resident status, which could have been revoked. It’s even technically possible to revoke someone’s citizenship for lying on their paperwork.”
As Slate notes, “There is also a waiver process by which Trump/Knauss could have formally asked the U.S. government to let her off the hook for earlier misrepresentations, but her immigration file isn’t public so we don’t know if she availed herself of it.”
“The likelihood of getting caught red-handed doing something like what Melania did—then or now—is fairly low. Such a tourist-visa violation is usually only discovered if the offender leaves the country and is then caught upon re-entry by a border official who, for instance, finds pay stubs in his/her luggage or sees work contacts on his/her smartphone,,” David said.
“Even so,” the attorney added, “wealthier-looking people” like Melania—who’d already been modeling in Europe before coming to the U.S.—usually aren’t carefully scrutinized for potential deportation. Under a Trump administration crackdown, though, perhaps that will change. After all, the POTUS has said, if immigrants violate U.S. law in any way, “they have to go.”
Go ahead… proceed, Mr. Trump.