WASHINGTON >> Melania Trump released a letter Wednesday from an immigration attorney that provided more detail on what she said was her legal pathway to U.S. citizenship. But the Slovenian-born wife of the GOP presidential nominee did not publish any part of her immigration file— official documents that would put to rest questions about whether she followed immigration law.
The two-page letter from New York attorney Michael J. Wildes, who has represented Donald Trump’s companies, also advanced an alternate timeline for a nude photo shoot that had been cited in news reports as possible evidence of Mrs. Trump working as a model in New York City without authorization. At issue is whether the photo shoot occurred in 1995— before Mrs. Trump has said she began legally working in the U.S. — or in 1996, as Mrs. Trump and Wildes assert.
The letter, posted on Mrs. Trump’s Twitter account, marks the first time that she has publicly identified the type of visas she held and gave specifics about her entry into the U.S. Mrs. Trump has often said she came to the U.S. legally and used her story to defend Donald Trump’s hard line on illegal immigration, an issue that he has made a signature part of his campaign.
In the letter from Wildes, it’s unclear whether Mrs. Trump provided him access to her full immigration file during his review. Wildes wrote that he had reviewed a series of news reports and “documents regarding the U.S. immigration history of Mrs. Melania Trump.” But the letter did not indicate which documents.
Wednesday night Wildes said in an interview with MSNBC that he did review Mrs. Trump’s entire immigration file.
“Not only did I see the stamps, I wanted to see all approval notices,” Wildes said of stamps in Mrs. Trump’s passport and documents detailing approval of her visas.
Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung did not immediately respond to detailed questions from The Associated Press about the review and whether Mrs. Trump planned to release her immigration file for public examination. The immigration file is one of several documents that the Trumps have refused to make public including Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Wildes said he did not anticipate that Mrs. Trump would release her immigration files, saying “there’s no issue here.”
“If there was an issue here, I don’t know that I would be here in all honesty,” said Wildes, who described himself as a Democrat and a Hillary Clinton supporter.
In his letter, Wildes dismissed news reports that Mrs. Trump had been professionally photographed posing nude in New York City in 1995. He said Wednesday night that the photos were taken in 1996, after Mrs. Trump had a legal work visa.
Last month, the New York Post published the photos along with an article saying they were taken during a two-day photo shoot in Manhattan in 1995. The Post reported that the photos were then published in the January 1996 issue of the French magazine Max. But Wildes said that then-Melania Knauss was not in the country in 1995.
“The allegation that she participated in a photo shoot in 1995 is not only untrue, it is impossible,” Wildes wrote. He said he interviewed Mrs. Trump and “we ascertained that the photo shoot in question did not occur until after she was admitted to the United States in H-1B visa status in October 1996.” The letter does not give more detail on when Mrs. Trump said the photo shoot occurred.
Wildes wrote that Mrs. Trump first entered the U.S. on Aug. 27, 1996, using a B-1/B-2 visitor visa. About two months later, on Oct. 18, 1996, Wildes said the U.S. Embassy in Slovenia issued Mrs. Trump her first worker visa, an H-1B visa, which she used to work as a model. Wildes said she was issued five such visas between October 1996 and 2001, at which point she became a lawful permanent resident. Wildes said he did not represent Mrs. Trump during the process.
Wildes wrote that Mrs. Trump did not receive her green card through marriage. Instead, she applied in 2000 by self-sponsoring herself as a model of “extraordinary ability,” he said. She received her green card on March 19, 2001, and became eligible for citizenship in 2006, the year Mrs. Trump has said she became a citizen.
Simon Rosenberg, an immigration policy analyst who supports Hillary Clinton, said he’s skeptical about Mrs. Trump’s ability to qualify for self-sponsorship as described in Wildes’ letter. Rosenberg, the president of NDN/New Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said, “The letter resolves nothing.”
“If they have all the documents, then release them. It is the only way we can answer the fundamental question here which is whether Melania Trump followed immigration law,” he said.
William Stock, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said Wildes’ description of Mrs. Trump’s immigration history “is consistent with immigration law, as I know it,” though he noted the date of the photo shoot is an outstanding question.
The qualification to self-sponsor to receive a green card is that a person must show extraordinary ability and national or international renown. Stock said an immigrant seeking this type of green card “can be extraordinary in anything,” including modeling, and that the strength of a person’s reputation can be part of that proof.
Stock said Mrs. Trump or any other immigrant in the same situation would have been measured by the standards in their chosen field.
Associated Press writer Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report.
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