With Trump talking immigration, it’s time to revisit Melania’s funky visa status

Last week, ThinkProgress Immigration Reporter Esther Yu Hsi Lee wrote a piece defending Melania Trump’s possible visa violations before becoming an American citizen.

As an immigrant, I disagree.

Lee bases her argument on the premise that “the bureaucratic nightmare of the outdated U.S. immigration system has been unable to keep up with the modern demands of migration.”

While I agree with that assessment, it would not excuse Melania Trump violating her visa terms multiple times. Particularly since she may have done so wittingly, and with none of the extenuating circumstances that push many to enter this country illegally.

As an Egyptian citizen, I had to apply for visas to visit, study, work, and finally immigrate to the US.

As the recipient of B-1 tourist visas, an F-1 student visa, an H-1B work visa, and finally an F-4 immigrant visa, I have had to fill numerous application forms, go to multiple interviews, and answer endless questions about my background, my history, and my intentions in coming to the US.

Melania Trump plagiarism

Melania Trump.

For the last two visas, I was subject to the caps that Lee mentions in her piece. I was lucky enough to get through the H-1B lottery and receive one of the 65,000 visas allocated for 2015. For my eventual immigrant visa, my family had to wait 13 years. And I was included in the application, thanks to Barack Obama’s “Child Status Protection Act,” after I had resigned myself to being excluded from the family application due to my age.

According to Melania Trump, she had to fly to Europe every few months to renew her visa stamp. As many have pointed out, this requirement is only necessary for people on B-1/B-2 tourist or business tourist visas, both of which prohibit a person from gainful employment in the US.

While Lee says, and experts seem to agree, that it’s “easier than one might think to fall out of status,” working while on a B-1/B-2 visa is not exactly “falling out of status.” We’re not talking about someone failing to count the days they’ve been in the US, and then missing a deadline to leave the country. We’re talking about someone who may have deliberately lied about why they came to the US.

To receive a B-1/B-2 visa, you have to indicate on your application and at your interview that you are not coming to the US with the intention to become employed.

This means that, if Melania really did work while on a B-1/B-2 visa (as many have speculated in light of her recently-surfaced modeling photos from the time), there are only two apparent options: 1) She lied on her application and interview when she said she had no intention to work; or 2) A job opportunity arose and she decided not to mention that she was not legally employable.

The fact that she returned to Europe every few months seems to prove that she was aware she was on a short-term tourist visa (which only allows a maximum 6-month stay even if the visa itself is longer). And that she had to leave and re-enter the US so as not to overstay her legal term.

I, like Melania, am lucky enough to not need to navigate the 100,000 refugee visa cap. I did not come here to escape war, persecution, or threat of injury or death. Neither did Melania.

The immigration system is archaic and in massive need of overhaul. But cases like Melania’s (or my own) are not the ones with the most pressing need for a better immigration system. Cases like Melania’s are also not where we should excuse gaffes, particularly not when they seem intentional. And certainly not when they’re committed by someone hoping to become the first lady of the most anti-immigration president in modern history.

(This piece was originally published on my Medium blog.)


Amir Beshay is an Egyptian immigrant living in New York City. He has a background in technology and urban studies, and his interests include political communications and foreign policy. Follow Amir on Twitter: @amir_g_beshay.

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7 Responses to “With Trump talking immigration, it’s time to revisit Melania’s funky visa status”

  1. danny from saipanny says:

    I think if Drumpf married an illegal immigrant, he should deport her, like he says he will to other people’s families. But let’s get real here: Drumpf is not about consistency, or logic, or morality, or reality.

  2. n2y2 says:

    Not so much. There are thousands of illegal aliens who get deported despite being married to a US Citizen. If a person enters the country illegally, violates the conditions of the visa or lies to customs agents, all subsequent immigrant applications (green card, naturalization, etc) can be retroactively voided. Then that person is subject to deportation.

    If the deportation is the result of serious crime, they are unlikely to ever be re-admitted. If they are guilty of immigration violations (such as Melania) There is a waiting period:
    “…anyone age 18 or over who stays unlawfully in the U.S. for 180 days or more and then leaves is barred from returning for three years; and those who stay unlawfully for a year or more are not permitted to return for ten years.”
    http://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/us-immigration/options-spouse-deported-removed.html

  3. rich wallace says:

    She’s in with the Russsians. Deport her.

  4. Jackieabautista1 says:

    <<fb. ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★::::::!il170r:….,…..

  5. fry1laurie says:

    Moot, since she’s married to the vulgar talking yam.

  6. Rational says:

    According to a story quoting an immagration lawyer that used to work for drumpf melania had a green card from a previous marriage.
    People have had difficulty in finding records of this reputed marriage and,more importantly, of any divorce/ annulment.
    If that is accurate reporting there are only a limited number of possibilities.
    So either
    a) She lied about previous marriage on Visa and in all reports about her marriage to drumpf
    or
    b) She did participiate in an arranged/ sham marriage to obtain a Visa
    or
    Then question arises if she did have a previous marriage, be it for love or fraud, did she legally get a divorce or separation. If not is there a possibility that she never had it dissolved and has subsequently be living as a bigamist with drumpf? would that make her child with drumpf illegitimate? if drumpf’s other children know this will they, following thier fathers example, use it to cut her and child out of any inheritance?

    (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3726787/New-questions-raised-Slovenian-model-U-S-citizen-attorney-Donald-lets-slip-earned-green-card-based-marriage-four-years-wed-GOP-nominee.html)

  7. noh1bvisas says:

    LOCK HER UP! LOCK HER UP! LOCK HER UP!

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