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Category: Immigration News

Donald Trump’s Modeling Agency Broke Federal Immigration Laws

April 13, 2016|Contributed by: Alexander D. McShiras, Esq.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, DONALD TRUMP PLEDGES TO END RAMPANT H-1B PROGRAM ABUSE DESPITE THE FACT THAT TRUMP’S MODELING AGENC Y PROFITED FROM THIS PROGRAM BY EXPLOITING FOREIGN WORKERS.

The H1-B program has become a lightning rod during the 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump, the front-runner in Republican primaries, has slammed this program for taking jobs away from American workers, for lower pay. It turns out Mr. Trump’s modeling agency has exploited the H-1B program by breaking federal immigration law. A group of class action plaintiffs (pending certification), led by Jamaican model Alexia Palmer, filed a class action suit against Trump Model Management. Ms. Palmer entered the United States on an H1-B application in 2011. The application letter stated Ms. Palmer’s salary of at least $75,000 per year. However, Ms. Palmer claims she was only paid a few thousand dollars over a period of three years. She is claiming that Trump Model Management defrauded the government of the United States and the models they hired under this program by paying them only a fraction of the prevailing wage that the Department of Labor set for this occupation.

More than 30 models were hired by Trump Model Management and brought to the United States using the H1-B Program. Federal Law makes it clear that the employer must pay the amount stated in the H1-B application, in this case $75,000. This amount must meet or exceed the “prevailing wage” set by the U.S. Department of Labor. By failing to pay the prevailing wage, the Trump Model Management is in clear violation of immigration law. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services confirmed that the employer sponsor must pay the actual wage listed on the job offer, or the prevailing wage, whichever is higher. The wage listed is not an estimate and it must be paid no matter what.

This is a disturbing instance of exploitation of foreign workers. Mr. Trump is blasting program for being susceptible to the very abuse his company committed. Before he attacks this program any further, he should take a good look at himself. The H1-B is not perfect, but it brings skilled and bright workers into the United States to fill jobs that are required and cannot be staffed with American workers. A call to clean up this program should start with Mr. Trump’s agency. This class action makes it clear that the problem is widespread. Mr. Trump’s agency is taking visas away from meritorious applicants who may not receive a visa because of the annual cap limit. Without an increase in the H1-B cap and better enforcement against program violators, there will remain a huge demand for these specialty visas and a scramble each spring to file applications for a lottery chance at gaining a visa.