The Washington Post has questioned whether First Lady Melania Trump was deserving of the green card she received through the EB-1 program, which is supposed to be reserved for aliens with “extraordinary” abilities. The article states that, “Melania Trump’s ability to secure her green card not only set her on the path to U.S. citizenship, but put her in the position to sponsor the legal residency of her parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs. The Washington Post reported earlier this month that the couple is now close to obtaining their own citizenship.”
Before marrying Donald Trump, Melania was a fashion model, and her profession afforded her an H-1B work visa. While the matter of the EB-1 green card may be something worthy of debate, the H-1B visa was pretty straightforward. Judging from the work as a fashion model that the First Lady did, it would not be unreasonable to approve the First Lady’s eligibility in that category. That’s because of the following explanation, provided by Inc magazine.
When Congress created a separate type of visa for celebrity occupations, including people like “performers, athletes, Nobel Prize laureates and religious workers,” Bloomberg said, “lawmakers realized they hadn’t put fashion models in a separate category.”
So, they lumped them in at the last minute with tech workers and other specialty occupations, under the H-1B visas. Subsequent efforts to move models to the category for performers and athletes have failed.
The Inc. article adds, “A new analysis by Bloomberg‘s Frank Bass and Kartikay Mehrotra shows that foreign fashion models are more than twice as likely to be granted H1-B visas than foreign computer programmers. ”
So far, perhaps understandable. My experience is that women of her former stature qualify for H-1B visas. As for getting the green card, apart from winning some international award such as an Oscar, Nobel Prize or the like, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration web sites spells out the other criteria to qualify for a green card in the EB-1 category. They are:
Criteria for Demonstrating Extraordinary Ability
You must meet 3 out of the 10 listed criteria below to prove extraordinary ability in your field:
Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members
Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media
Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel
Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media
Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts
As to whether the First Lady met these stringent criteria, one would need to see the materials that were submitted in support of her application to the U.S. immigration office. At least two of the items on the list were probably in her submission: published materials about her and commanding a high salary. While one can perhaps doubt about whether the First Lady had what it takes to meet any of the other criteria, it may be quite likely that she was able to provide evidence of other qualifications. However, there is something about this line of attack that troubles me.
I find some of the questions being raised about the First Lady distasteful and mean spirited. As far as I am concerned, Donald Trump is open territory and deserving of many of the criticisms leveled at him. Criticism comes with the job and when he makes a blunder he deserves a rebuke. This attack on the First Lady is different.
In my view the questions that were raised about Slovenia and the modest numbers of successful immigrant applicants from that country had no place in measuring the First Lady’s qualifications. Give the poor country a break and if you are going to pick a quarrel about immigrants levels, pick it with countries with larger, more economically advanced populations that have sent abundant numbers to America. What is more, what do the immigrant numbers from Slovenia really have to do with whether Melania Trump is qualified?
What is more disturbing to me is the ad hominem nature of the attacks on the First Lady. Not everybody is as articulate as Michelle Obama or Barbara Bush, nor perhaps as well educated. Let’s remember that English is the First Lady’s second language. I would invite those who are criticizing her to try doing it in another language to get a sense of the handicap involved in the First Lady’s defense of herself in English. To more directly address the immigration question, while Melania Trump is no Einstein and thus may not be eligible for an “Einstein visa,” let’s remember, as is apparent from the criteria set out above, that is not the criteria for approval. When compared to others who have received the same green card, including models I have represented, apparently she measured up well enough to be approved. Perhaps that’s because her qualifications were not measured by perfection, but by the balance of probabilities – the proper measure in this instance.
That said, let us return to the immigration debate in America, but let us stay away from unfriendly aspersions about immigrants who have legally succeeded in their efforts to join us in this country, nor on their efforts to sponsor their family members so long as the laws allow for that to happen.
This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.