During Thursday night’s CNN Republican debate, GOP front-runner Donald Trump made another fun concession about a policy he eagerly admits to using as a businessman but wants to end as a politician. On the subject of H-1B visas for skilled workers, Trump repeated his opposition to that program while in the very same breath admitting to taking advantage of it in his business ventures.
“I know the H-1B very well, it’s something that I frankly use,” Trump said. “I’m a businessman and I have to do what I have to do. … It’s very bad for business. And it’s bad for our workers. And we should end it.”
When he was in the Senate, Marco Rubio sponsored immigration reform legislation that would have expanded the number of these visas that were available to companies from 85,000 to 180,000. The Florida senator, desperate to win his home state next week and already facing calls to drop out of the race, has stood by that proposal—and Trump attacked him for it—even as he disavowed most of the rest of that bill.
Trump’s previous critique of H-1B visas was that they are abused by companies who want to hire “temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay.” Trump has said he would require employers to pay H-1B visa holders more and to offer those jobs to Americans before reaching out to foreign workers.
The business mogul, however, has not only used H-1B visas, but used them for an unusual venture, specifically his modeling agency. Oh, and that modeling agency is also being sued for allegedly abusing the program.
ABC News reported on Thursday that Jamaican-born model Alexia Palmer is suing Trump Model Management for hiring her on an H-1B visa that promised to pay her $75,000 a year, saying she only received $3,880 and cash advances of $1,100 over a three-year period. Palmer, who moved to the U.S. to work for Trump when she was 17, told ABC that she was treated “like a slave.”
“That’s what slavery people do,” Palmer told ABC News. “You work and don’t get no money.” The agency took 80 percent of her earnings as expenses and fees but only found her 21 shoots over three years. And under the terms of her visa, she could not work anywhere else if she wanted to stay in the U.S.
Trump’s attorney, Alan Garten, disputed Palmer’s claim, saying she was treated the same as any other fashion industry prospect and made little money because “she had a lack of work.”
Robert Divine, a former chief counsel to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency during the Bush administration, told ABC News that “[i]t would be extraordinarily unusual for that to be legal.”
Trump had already been criticized by Rubio and Ted Cruz for using workers on H-1B visas in his country club resorts. Reuters reported on Wednesday that a judge will decide by the end of the month whether Palmer’s lawsuit, originally filed in 2014, will go forward. Reuters has also reported that Trump’s companies have tried to bring over 1,100 workers on temporary visas since 2000, including 250 applications for foreign fashion models. ABC News reported that “[m]ore than 100 Trump models have come to the U.S. on H-1B work visas.”
Reuters noted that Trump’s use of the H-1B visa system to hire models was an unusual use of the system. In the past three years, the wire service found that there were only 181 total applications by modeling agencies for H-1B visas for foreign models, who are usually brought over on O-1 visas.
So, Donald Trump is the only man who can stop people from doing the bad things that he is one of the very few people to do.