Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is once again facing controversy. This time, the billionaire real estate developer is under fire for his company’s practice of employing foreign models illegally. Trump Model Management (TMM) is accused of helping models from other nations enter the United States illegally under tourist visas instead of work visas, which they were required to have in accordance with United States immigration law. While TMM did most of this activity in their early 2000s, many in the industry believe that this illegal conduct may continue till today. Insiders revealed that TMM would only help models get work visas after several months of employment, and only if the company felt the individual model was a worthy investment.
Canadian model Rachel Blais has spoke openly about TMM’s poor conduct, along with two other models who only wished to be identified as “Anna” and “Kate.” Blais and the other two models told reporters how staff members from TMM would coach foreign models on how to get through customs without having the proper visas. Often, models would be told to tell immigration officers that they were just in the United States for meetings, or that they were looking for agents to represent them in the industry. Some models, such as Anna, were promised work visas by TMM, but only ended up receiving tourist visas. Having a tourist visa put the models in a very precarious position. As TMM refused to sponsor them for a work visa, the models were at the mercy of the company. Models were concerned that refusing to cooperate with TMM would mean the end of their career or even deportation from the United States.
While TMM’s contempt for American immigration law is a major concern, another is the appalling conditions they subjected models to. Very often, the company made models live in tight living conditions in small New York City apartments. Blais, Anna, and Kate told of how women would live with numerous other foreign models also brought into the country by TMM illegally at absurdly high rent rates. Blais described the living conditions by saying “It was like modern-day slavery.” In the end, TMM helped Blais get a work visa while Anna and Kate returned to their home countries. Despite getting proper documentation, Blais noted that she ended up only making $8,400 for three years of work. The vast majority of the money she made went to TMM in the form of commissions and fees.
Ironically, Trump has made the fight against illegal immigration the cornerstone of his presidential campaign. The candidate famously demonized illegal workers as “rapists,” and has garnered widespread support from blue collar Americans by promising to combat the practices used by Trump Model Management and other big corporations. The most recent allegations against TMM are being used by some from the “Never Trump” movement as proof that the candidate is a political opportunist who has no real views on the issues.