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Trump's Modeling Agency Under Fire Over H-1B Visas

Image: Trump's Modeling Agency Under Fire Over H-1B Visas
Donald Trump (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 10 Mar 2016 03:25 PM

Donald Trump's modeling agency has come under fire for using the same H-1B visa program that the GOP presidential front-runner criticizes — and reportedly may be violating immigration laws at the same time.

The Trump Model Management agency use of the program is at the heart of a proposed class action lawsuit filed by Jamaican model Alexia Palmer, who was brought to the country with an H-1B visa, CNN Money reports.

The suit alleges the agency recruits foreign models with promises of wages that never materialize and defrauds the government on visa applications. CNN notes Palmer is the only plaintiff and the suit has not yet been approved as a class-action.

According to CNN, government data analyzed by Howard University professor Ron Hira shows that since 2008, Trump's agency has successfully brought over around 30 foreign models using the H-1B program. Almost half of these applications indicated a $75,000 annual salary while others went as high as $416,000.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency tells CNN Money a sponsoring company "must pay the actual wage or the prevailing wage, whichever is higher" — meaning it was illegal to pay Palmer below either listed wage.

"Employers may never pay below the prevailing wage," the agency said in a statement.

For Palmer, the prevailing wage acknowledged by the Trump agency on the visa application was roughly $45,000 a year. She made less than $30,000 over three years from modeling jobs for clients ranging from Conde Nast to Saks Fifth Avenue, CNN Money reports.

After taxes, a 20 percent commission to the agency, fees and modeling-related costs, Palmer netted $4,985 over three years, CNN Money reports.

"If someone isn't being paid what they are supposed to be paid, they are being exploited," said Neil Ruiz, executive director of the Center for Law, Economics and Finance at George Washington University and a national expert on H-1B visas.

"This case shows that [Trump's] own company has benefited from exploiting his own H-1B visa holders."

The lawyer representing dismissed the criticism.

"It is important to note that at no time while TMM was her model manager did Ms. Palmer ever object to any of these deductions from her gross pay," lawyer Lawrence Rosen tells CNN Money, adding Palmer was paid for the jobs she booked and nothing more.

"She just didn't have a very successful modeling career,"Rosen tells CNN Money.

Trump's presidential campaign agreed.

"In regards to Ms. Palmer, this is standard practice in the modeling industry and the visa application form is inadequate to address the practice of the industry," a spokesperson said in an email to CNN Money.

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Donald Trump's modeling agency has come under fire for using the same H-1B visa program that the GOP presidential front-runner criticizes — and reportedly may be violating immigration laws at the same time.
trump, modeling, agency, visa, program, h-1b
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2016-25-10
Thursday, 10 Mar 2016 03:25 PM
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