Justice Department Will Pause A Legal Advice Program For Detained Immigrants

The Department of Justice will temporarily suspend funding for a legal-advice program for detained immigrants as well as a telephone help line at the end of the month, according to officials.

On Tuesday, the department alerted the Vera Institute of Justice, an immigrants rights organization that runs the Legal Orientation Program and the Immigration Court Helpdesk, that the government needs time to review the effectiveness of the program.

The most recent review occurred in 2012. According to public statements, the annual price tag of the program is about $6 million.

The Justice Department declined to explain why it has chosen to review the program when the contract expires on April 30. Officials also declined to provide a timeline for the review.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, the program serves more than 50,000 people per year in 38 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers across the country. The nonprofit works with a network of 18 legal aid organizations to provide information in multiple languages about immigrant rights and how the legal system operates.

“Without this program immigrants are effectively being stripped of access to even the most basic information,” Claudia Cubas, the litigation director for Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, told NPR.

Cubas’ Washington, D.C.-based group provides services for undocumented immigrants in six detention centers in Maryland and Virginia. In addition to an orientation session explaining terminology and the processes of immigration cases, the nonprofit groups also try to pair individuals with pro bono attorneys who can then represent them in immigration court, Cubas said. In instances where staff members take on cases, Cubas said, the lawyers are not paid through the government program.

The program was created in 2003 under President George W. Bush.

“Without this funding, we don’t know if we’ll be able to respond to the growing detention population that we’re seeing at a local level. And given concerns about the immigration court backlog this is an incongruous decision because studies show people who get legal help can more quickly make decisions about their case,” she said.

A 2012 cost analysis by the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review concluded that 94 percent of detained migrants who were provided services on or before the day of their first immigration court hearing spent 11 fewer days in ICE detention and completed their immigration proceedings 16 days faster than those who did not.

The same study found that the program created a net savings for the government of nearly $18 million.

In recent months, the Justice Department has made several changes to the nation’s immigration courts intended to clear a vast backlog, now estimated to be about 685,000 cases, according to Syracuse University.

The Department of Justice also announced last week that immigration judges’ job performance will be evaluated by how quickly they close cases.

[NPR]

Trump Recites Inflammatory, Anti-immigrant ‘Snake’ Song

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday recited the lyrics of a song seen as anti-immigration called “The Snake” to drive home his point about restricting immigration — an inflammatory move that harkened back to his days on the campaign trail.

In a speech to conservatives at a convention outside Washington, he also bashed opposition Democrats for failing to back his proposal for putting 1.8 million so-called Dreamer immigrants on a pathway to citizenship in exchange for tightening border security and severely restricting legal immigration.

During his hourlong address, Trump pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and read “The Snake,” a ballad by Al Wilson about a reptile who repays a “tender woman” that nurses it back to health with a deadly bite.

During his campaign, as well as in a speech early in his presidency, Trump used the song, based on one of Aesop’s fables, as a less-than-subtle allegory about immigrants entering the United States.

[Voices of America]

Trump pushes for stronger border in wake of Colts’ Edwin Jackson killing

President Donald Trump urged for tougher border security Tuesday after Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson was reportedly killed by an undocumented immigrant in a vehicle collision.

“So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson,” he tweeted. “This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!”

Prior to the president’s tweets, however, Chad Bouchez, Jackson’s roommate, said during a CBS interview, that Jackson would not want his death politicized. “He would not want that,” Bouchez said. “I don’t think Edwin would have judged anyone on where they were from or anything else. ”

The man accused of hitting Jackson and his Uber driver with his vehicle in Indianapolis on Sunday had been deported twice, according to Indiana State Police. Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, might have entered the U.S. on or around July 1, 2004, according to an email Monday from Nicole Alberico, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to CNN, an ICE statement said the accused also has other “misdemeanor criminal convictions and arrests in California and Indiana.”

News reports say prosecutors have not formally charged Orrego-Savala but authorities said they are working on potential criminal charges.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) shared the president’s sentiments, according to a Washington Times report Monday.

“The loss of life at the hands of illegal immigrant criminals should make all Hoosiers sad and ultimately angry,” Rokita said. “We must do more to get these dangerous illegal immigrant criminals off of our streets, and guarantee this never happens again by building a wall, ending sanctuary cities, and stopping illegal immigration once and for all.”

The second-year linebacker was loved by the Colts organization, according to the team’s statement on Sunday.

“We admired his outgoing personality, competitive spirit and hard-working mentality,” the statement said. “He was well-respected among all with whom he crossed paths, and he will be greatly missed in our locker room and throughout our entire organization.”

After pushing for Democrats to get “tougher” on border control, Trump sent his condolences to Jackson’s family.

“My prayers and best wishes are with the family of Edwin Jackson, a wonderful young man whose life was so senselessly taken. @Colts,” he tweeted.

The president had previously criticized the “disgraceful” verdict in the 2015 case of Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco. As a result, Trump called for the building of a border wall after the verdict was delivered in the trial in December.

[Politico]

Reality

This was a sad and tragic event by an illegal immigrant, but it is *A* sad and tragic event, meaning this is just one instance. Policy needs to reflect data, which unequivocally shows that immigrants (both legal and illegal) commit crimes at far lower rates than the native population.

Second, Orrego-Savala was driving without a license and intoxicated, so we could make just as strong, if not stronger, of an argument against drunk driving as one could about illegal immigration being the primary factor of death.

The Trump administration used bad math in its “foreign terrorists” report

Donald Trump has turned to data to argue for stricter immigration policies. According to a report his administration released yesterday, more than 70% of people convicted of “terrorism-related charges” from 2001 to 2016 were born outside the US.

“This report is a clear reminder of why we cannot continue to rely on immigration policy based on pre-9/11 thinking that leaves us woefully vulnerable to foreign-born terrorists,” said Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.

But Trump’s statistics are misleading. That percentage is based on a list of 549 people, which experts say is flawed. First, the list excludes homegrown extremists, who have become the US’s biggest terror threat. Second, the vague term “terrorism-related charges” inflates numbers by including not just people who broke laws “directly related to international terrorism,” but others who were convicted of totally unrelated offenses, such as fraud or illegal immigration in the course of a terrorism-related investigation.

“’Terrorism-related’ is not a term that appears in the US criminal code,” said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute. “It’s pretty meaningless.”

His own analysis, which counts foreign-born terrorists convicted of planning or committing a terrorist attack in the US, found 154 cases from 1975 to 2015. That’s almost 250 fewer than the Trump administration’s count over a longer period of time. The White House and the Homeland Security department did not respond to requests for comment.

Bundling terrorism convictions with those that are merely “terrorism-related” is not new. Attorney general Jeff Sessions, who’s honed in on the issue since he was a senator, had produced a similar report in 2016, and the Department of Justice had relied on a similar method long before that. It’s an approach that has been questioned for years, including in a 2003 report by the Government Accountability Office that found the Justice Department had misclassified dozens of cases the previous year.

One example of how this can happen is the case of three Middle-Eastern grocers who were convicted for stealing boxes of Kellogg’s cereal in 2000—but remained on the list of terrorism-related cases because the Federal Bureau of Investigation questioned them after a source inaccurately tipped agents that the three men had tried to buy a rocket-propelled grenade.

The new report didn’t look at any of the violent homegrown extremists because “domestic terrorism was not what was required by the president’s order,” a senior official told reporters. It doesn’t provide any statistic directly linking the numbers in the report to chain migration, or particular visas, either. “It takes some time and research,” he said.

The new report was a follow-up to president Trump’s March 6 executive order on “protecting America from foreign-born terrorism,” better known as the Muslim ban. In it, he asked the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to gather data on “foreign nationals” who have supported and engaged terrorism.

It’s part of a series of information requests about immigrants Trump has made–including regular reports on immigrants’ crimes–which some critics see as part of public relations campaign to promote the president’s anti-immigration campaign. (Trump has also asked for statistics on “honor killings” and other violence against women by foreigners, and on “sanctuary” jurisdictions that don’t honor DHS requests to hold immigrants until immigration authorities can collect them.)

But Nowrasteh, from the Cato Institute, found the report surprisingly thin given the time and resources the government had since Trump commissioned it last March. His study, published in 2016, includes the type of visa the convicted terrorists used to enter the country. “There’s very little new information in this report,” he said. “They have no excuse.”

[Quartz]

Trump contradicts self repeatedly in immigration meeting

President Donald Trump appeared to contradict himself multiple times in a meeting on immigration with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Tuesday — a reflection of growing frustration from Capitol Hill about the lack of direction from the White House on the issue.

The President at times suggested he would be looking to sign everything from a stand-alone fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — set to expire in March — to comprehensive immigration reform, often appearing to being guided by lawmakers in the room to modify his positions.

The comments came during a nearly hour-long conversation between the roughly two dozen lawmakers, the President and White House staff that the press was allowed to record — a window into the difficult negotiations that still surround the issue of replacing DACA, which protected young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation, and border security.

At the end of the session, Trump suggested that ultimately, he would sign whatever he was presented with.

“I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with,” Trump said. “If they come to me with things I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it. Because I respect them.”

Sens. Jeff Flake and James Lankford after the meeting both said the meeting was surprisingly helpful and they appreciated the President adding some clarity to the discussions, while noting hammering out the details remains to be worked out.
Lankford acknowledged that the meeting got “confusing,” saying though Trump at the beginning defined “DACA” as a deal that included DACA plus border security and two other areas of reform, it was unclear during some parts of the meeting.

“It got confusing at times, in fact he said later, ‘I just want a clean DACA and we’ll do a comprehensive later,’ and some of us said, ‘Whoa, what do you mean by that?’ And he came back to those four items,” the Oklahoma Republican told reporters afterward.
The White House declared the meeting a success in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“President Donald J. Trump just concluded a successful bipartisan and bicameral meeting on immigration reform,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in the statement. “During the closed-door portion of the meeting, they reached an agreement to negotiate legislation that accomplishes critically needed reforms in four high-priority areas: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.”

Asked during the White House briefing by CNN’s Jim Acosta whether Trump is demanding border wall funding in exchange for a DACA deal, Sanders would only say: “The President wants border security.”

Pressed again repeatedly, Sanders again insisted Trump wants “border security” funding — but would not commit to the wall.

Trump’s equivocation was the opposite of what lawmakers have long sought from the President. Republicans especially have pushed for the administration to draw clear lines around what would be a doable deal, giving them cover with the base to compromise and giving them leverage with Democrats to move the debate forward.

Asked if Tuesday provided the clarity that lawmakers have been asking for, Lankford said there was still more to be done.

“Oh no, there’s still some room to go on it,” he said. “They’re continuing to get more and more clear on what they’re putting out, we’re getting closer and closer.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn made the point directly to Trump during the meeting, saying that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both told the President at a legislative retreat with Republicans over the weekend that only a bill with Trump’s support would move forward for a vote.

“So, that’s I think the picture that we need to be looking through, the lens we need to be looking through, not only what can we agree to among ourselves on a bipartisan basis, but what will you sign into law,” Cornyn said. “Because we all want to get to a solution here and we realize the clock is ticking.”

But details in the meeting were still hard to come by.

At one point, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, suggested to Trump that Congress could pass the “Dream Act” alone, which would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and which has been Democrats’ starting point demand, and then turn to comprehensive reform.

When Trump indicated he would agree to that, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said border security would have to be part of the package, prompting Trump to say that’s what he thought Feinstein meant, and then a flurry of clarifications.

Trump said his version of a “clean” deal would include DACA, border security, ending “chain migration” or family-based migration, and ending the diversity visa lottery. But those issues are commonly thought to only be achievable in a comprehensive immigration deal.

Trump then both endorsed doing comprehensive immigration reform sooner and later.
Lawmakers working on a DACA deal have long fought to keep the bill narrow, saying adding more into it would only make it collapse under its own wait.

Trump said he would “take the heat” if lawmakers wanted to move toward comprehensive immigration reform, saying they were “not that far away” from it.

But then a few minutes later, Trump said DACA could come first and reform could come down the road, or immediately after.

“I think what we are all saying is we’ll do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon, OK?” Trump said. “We’ll take an hour off and start. I do believe that. Because once we get DACA done if it’s done properly with security and everything else, if it’s done properly, we have taken a big chunk of comprehensive out of the negotiations. I don’t think it’s going to be that complicated.”

Since Trump decided to end DACA in September, lawmakers have been working to find a deal on the issue. The Tuesday meeting came ahead of a January 19 government funding deadline that Democrats are pushing to include DACA and a host of other issues.

[CNN]

Media

Trump to Australian PM: ‘You Are Worse Than I Am’

An explosive transcript has been released of the infamous phone exchange between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and U.S. President Donald Trump from the beginning of 2017 when Trump took office.

The January 28 conversation between the two leaders had sent the Australian public and media into a frenzy over the hostility Trump reportedly showed towards Turnbull over the refugee “swap” deal made between the Australian government and Obama administration, where the U.S. would take refugees from Manus Island and Nauru in exchange for refugees from Central America.

Despite widespread reporting of the tense conversation, both Trump and Turnbull denied their first exchange since Trump’s appointment had been anything but “good” and “great”.

While Trump, in predictable fashion, accused media outlets that reported on the tense exchange as “fake news” — both on Twitter and again when Turnbull and Trump met for the first time in New York in May.

But in documents obtained by the Washington Post from White House staff late on Thursday night (AEST), the exchange is revealed as heated, with the U.S. President blasting Turnbull with apparent little regard for the U.S. and Australia’s long-standing relationship as allies.

You can read the full transcript as published by the Washington Post here.

“I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made,” Trump said. “As far as I am concerned, that is enough, Malcolm. I have had it.”

“I hate taking these people,” Trump said. “I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people”.

Turnbull argued that the refugees were not “bad people” but economic refugees whom Australia could not allow to settle because it would encourage people smugglers.

“We said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Noble Prize winning genius, we will not let you in,” Turnbull told Trump.

The Australian PM is also recorded persuading the President by offering to take in “anyone that you want” in exchange for the 1,250 refugees.

“We will take anyone that you want us to take. The only people that we do not take are people who come by boat,” he says.

Trump did however appear to commend Turnbull on his government’s offshore processing of refugees, telling the Prime Minister it “is a good idea, we should do that too”.

That was followed by Trump telling Turnbull “you are worse than I am” in relation to refugees, which the Washington Post understood to be a compliment.

Trump told Turnbull the deal “would kill” him after so much of his campaign had relied heavily on closing borders and the infamous Muslim ban.

“I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country,” he said.

The leaked transcripts also shed light for the first time on the number of refugee detainees the Turnbull government and Obama administration has agreed upon. Turnbull told Trump that the “number in the agreement is 1,250”, before adding, “and it is entirely a matter of your vetting”.

Trump further blew up over the deal he called “dumb” and “stupid”, telling the Prime Minister it would show him to be “a dope”.

As the phone call wound towards its conclusion, the President further raged against the deal, telling Turnbull: “I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”

[Huffington Post]

Donald Trump Goes All In On Slashing Legal Immigration

President Donald Trump threw himself behind a bill on Wednesday that would make it dramatically more difficult for people to come to the U.S. legally, in spite of his past claims that he did not want to cut the number of people allowed into the country.

Trump held an event at the White House with Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) to boost the latest iteration of their bill to slash the ways foreign nationals can move to the United States.

The bill from Cotton and Perdue, known as the RAISE Act, would end the practice of prioritizing green cards for adult children and extended family of people already in the U.S., discontinue an immigration lottery program and limit the number of refugees to be accepted into the U.S. to only 50,000.

The president said the bill would be “the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century” and would “reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars.”

He also claimed the current green card system provides a “fast-track to citizenship” ― although in truth, having a green card is the standard path to citizenship.

The bill would favor applicants “who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” Trump said.

The president said the legislation would require immigrants to be more self-sufficient and prevent them from collecting safety net benefits. “They’re not gonna come in and just immediately collect welfare,” he said.

Current law already bars anyone who might become a “public charge” from receiving a green card, and prevents lawful permanent residents from receiving most safety net benefits for five years. But immigration hawks have long complained of loopholes in those restrictions. For instance, food stamps and Medicaid ― two of the country’s biggest safety net programs ― are exempt from the public charge criteria.

The idea, according to the president and senators, is to move toward a “merit-based” immigration plan, along the lines of the systems in Canada and Australia. But this legislation wouldn’t simply change the makeup of who can come into the country ― it would dramatically reduce the number of immigrants admitted overall, the bill’s proponents say.

“This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens,” Trump said. “This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”

Most economists say that immigration is actually beneficial to the economy and that curtailing legal immigration would slow growth. And Canada and Australia both admit legal immigrants at a far higher rate relative to their total populations than the U.S. does, including on the basis of family ties.

Trump also claimed that the current immigration “has not been fair to our people,” including immigrants and minority workers whose jobs, he said, are taken by “brand new arrivals.”

In fact, the bill could disproportionately affect nonwhite Americans, who are more likely to be recent immigrants and still have relatives living abroad, by making the already difficult process of bringing their families to the U.S. next to impossible.

Cotton previously said the bill would help prevent people from immigrating to the U.S. and then bringing over their “village” or “tribe.”

Trump told The Economist in May that he was not looking to reduce the number of legal immigrants. “We want people coming in legally,” he said at the time.

Immigration reform groups and even one Republican senator immediately panned the bill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who pushed for a broad immigration reform bill in 2013, said in a statement that he supports merit-based immigration but believes cutting legal immigration would hurt the economy.

“I fear this proposal will not only hurt our agriculture, tourism and service economy in South Carolina, it incentivizes more illegal immigration as positions go unfilled,” he said. “After dealing with this issue for more than a decade, I know that when you restrict legal labor to employers it incentivizes cheating.”

[Huffington Post]

Trumps suggests creating law that has been enacted since 1996

President Trump in a rally on Wednesday evening said immigrants who enter the United States should not be eligible for welfare benefits for five years, though such a law has already existed for 20 years.

“The time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years,” Trump told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the U.S. Cellular Center.

The president said his administration would be “putting in legislation to that effect very shortly.”

But such a law is already in effect and has been in place since 1996.

Known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), the legislation was passed during the administration of former President Bill Clinton and said that an immigrant is “not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit” for 5 years, which starts on the date the immigrant enters the country.

Trump has long pushed for more aggressive immigration policies, seeking to build a wall on the United States’ border with Mexico.

[The Hill]

Trump Calls Deportation Push a ‘Military Operation’

President Trump on Thursday called his effort to ramp up deportations a “military operation” aimed at ridding the U.S. of “really bad dudes.”

“We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country,” he said at a meeting with manufacturing CEOs. “And at a rate nobody has ever seen before. And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation.”

Trump is touting his administration’s new immigration enforcement policies, which could result in millions of deportations.

The Department of Homeland Security guidelines vastly increase the number of immigrants who are considered priorities for deportation. They also direct law enforcement agencies to hire thousands of new agents to apprehend people living in the country illegally, with local police and sheriffs’ offices enlisted in the effort.

The military, however, is not involved. The guidelines did not adopt a draft plan to enlist National Guard troops to help apprehend undocumented immigrants in nearly a dozen states.

Trump officials have said the effort is aimed at deporting criminal undocumented immigrants.

“You see what’s happening at the border,” the president said. “All of the sudden, for the first time, we’re getting gang members out. We’re getting drug lords out.”

“When you see gang violence and you’ve read about it like never before, all of the things, much of that is people who are here illegally. And they’re tough and they’re tough, but they’re not tough like our people,” he continued.

Under the administration’s guidelines, any immigrant who is convicted, charged or suspected of a crime is considered a priority for removal.

That is a break from Obama administration policy, which focused on serious criminals, recent border crossers and suspected terrorists.

The changes angered immigrant-rights groups, who said they could result in families being split apart and violations of due-process rights.

(h/t The Hill)

Melania Trump Illegally Modeled in U.S. Prior to Getting Work Visa

Melania Trump was paid for 10 modeling jobs in the United States worth $20,056 that occurred in the seven weeks before she had legal permission to work in the country, according to detailed accounting ledgers, contracts and related documents from 20 years ago provided to The Associated Press.

The details of Mrs. Trump’s early paid modeling work in the U.S. emerged in the final days of a bitter presidential campaign in which her husband, Donald Trump, has taken a hard line on immigration laws and those who violate them. Trump has proposed broader use of the government’s E-verify system allowing employers to check whether job applicants are authorized to work. He has noted that federal law prohibits illegally paying immigrants.

Mrs. Trump, who received a green card in March 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2006, has always maintained that she arrived in the country legally and never violated the terms of her immigration status. During the presidential campaign, she has cited her story to defend her husband’s hard line on immigration.

The wife of the GOP presidential nominee, who sometimes worked as a model under just her first name, has said through an attorney that she first came to the U.S. from Slovenia on Aug. 27, 1996, on a B1/B2 visitor visa and then obtained an H-1B work visa on Oct. 18, 1996.

The documents obtained by the AP show she was paid for 10 modeling assignments between Sept. 10 and Oct. 15, during a time when her visa allowed her generally to be in the U.S. and look for work but not perform paid work in the country. The documents examined by the AP indicate that the modeling assignments would have been outside the bounds of her visa.

It is highly unlikely that the discovery will affect the citizenship status of Mrs. Trump. The government can seek to revoke the U.S. citizenship of immigrants after the fact in cases when it determines a person willfully misrepresented or concealed facts relevant to his naturalization. But the government effectively does this in only the most egregious cases, such as instances involving terrorism or war crimes.

The disclosures about the payments come as Mrs. Trump takes on a more substantial role advocating for her husband’s candidacy. She made her first speech in months Thursday, in which she spoke of her time working as a model in Europe and her decision to come to the U.S.

“As a young entrepreneur, I wanted to follow my dream to a place where freedom and opportunity were in abundance. So of course, I came here,” she said. “Living and working in America was a true blessing, but I wanted something more. I wanted to be an American.”

The documents obtained by the AP included ledgers, other accounting documents and a management agreement signed by Mrs. Trump from Metropolitan International Management that covered parts of 1996 and 1997. The AP obtained the files this week after seeking copies since August from employees of the now-defunct modeling firm, after Mrs. Trump made comments earlier this summer that appeared inconsistent with U.S. immigration rules.

A New York immigration lawyer whom Mrs. Trump asked to review her immigration documents, Michael J. Wildes, also reviewed some of the ledgers at AP’s request. Wildes said in a brief statement that “these documents, which have not been verified, do not reflect our records including corresponding passport stamps.” He did not elaborate or answer additional questions asking for clarification. Wilde appeared to be referring to Mrs. Trump’s arrival in the United States on Aug. 27, 1996, one day after the ledgers list a charge for car service to pick up Mrs. Trump from the airport. Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks also did not answer additional written questions from the AP.

Since questions arose earlier this year, Mrs. Trump has declined to publicly release her immigration records. Wildes, the immigration lawyer, released a letter in September that laid out the details of what he said Mrs. Trump’s immigration records show, including a seven-week window in which Mrs. Trump was in the U.S. before her work visa was issued.

At the time, Wildes was responding to accusations that Mrs. Trump was in the U.S. more than a year before she first obtained a visa to the country, for a modeling job several media outlets reported taking place in New York in 1995 for a January 1996 issue of Max Magazine, a French men’s magazine that is now defunct. Wildes’ letter claimed that Trump never modeled in the U.S. before 1996, when she obtained a work visa. A Politico investigation later found that the Max photo shoot was published in the February 1997 issue of the magazine, putting the time of Mrs. Trump’s modeling gig in late 1996.

But during the seven-week period between the end of August and mid-October of 1996, the ledgers list modeling work for clients that included Fitness magazine and Bergdorf Goodman department store. The management agreement, which said it was not an employment agreement, included a handwritten date of Aug. 27, 1996. The top of the document said it was “made and entered into as of this 4th day of September 1996.”

Many of the documents were part of a legal dispute related to the dissolution of the firm in the late 1990s and found recently in storage. The accounting ledgers for the firm’s models were listed on hundreds of pages of continuously fed paper that appeared yellowed with age. They were authenticated by a former employee who worked at the firm at the time. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because this person feared retaliation and threats from Trump’s presidential campaign.

Exhibit markings with the records were also consistent with documents filed in New York state court, including a deposition of one former partner that referred to the same exhibit number. The sworn testimony describing the exhibit’s content matches the documents obtained by the AP.

A former partner, Paolo Zampolli, who previously told the AP that he recruited Mrs. Trump to come to the U.S. as a model, confirmed that the contract language was used by his firm and his signature appeared on the document. Mrs. Trump’s signature on the contract resembled her signature on her marriage license recorded in 2005. Asked about the two dates on the document, Zampolli said he usually vacationed in Europe each August and likely arranged for the contract to be formally executed when he returned to New York after Labor Day, even though Mrs. Trump had signed it eight days earlier.

Zampolli previously told the AP that Mrs. Trump obtained a work visa before she modeled professionally in the United States. He said the ledgers for Mrs. Trump were consistent with printouts used by his firm at the time, but he would not personally vouch for them because he said money matters were handled by the company’s chief financial officer, who has since died.

Zampolli said he did not recall Mrs. Trump working without legal permission. “Honestly, I don’t know. It’s like 20 years ago,” he said. “The contract looks (like) a real one and the standard one.”

Foreigners are not allowed to use a visitor visa to work for pay in the U.S. for American companies. Doing so would violate the terms of that visa and could prohibit a foreigner from later changing his or her immigration status in the U.S. or bar the foreigner from the United States again without special permission to come back. The E-verify system started in 1997- after Mrs. Trump came to the country- and was dramatically expanded after 2007.

Some ledgers obtained by the AP identify Mrs. Trump by her professional name and detail her involvement with the modeling agency from July 18, 1996, through Sept. 26, 1997. Other documents from the same accounting ledgers identify Mrs. Trump as Melanija Knaus and list $20,526 in gross earnings for the period before she was granted her work visa on Oct. 18, 1996. The documents also show the modeling company paid for her rent, lent her money and paid for her pager.

Some ledgers were first made available to True.Ink, an online lifestyle publication, and then independently obtained and verified by the AP.

Metropolitan International Management managed the careers of about 65 women in 1996 and 1997, according to court records. It paid the women as independent contractors, collecting a 20 percent commission and deducting expenses. The ledger shows that the firm also deducted federal taxes from the models’ gross earnings, including Mrs. Trump’s.

Mrs. Trump’s immigration story isn’t the first controversy the would-be first lady has faced on the campaign trail.

Earlier this summer, after giving a speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump was the subject of much criticism for lifting portions of her uplifting address from Michelle Obama’s own Democratic convention speech back in 2008. Her biography for the convention program also incorrectly claimed she had been granted a college degree in design and architecture at the university in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

(h/t CBS News)

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