EAST VILLAGE — Donald Trump’s modeling agency profited off of skirting immigration law, drafting models not permitted to work in the United States and cramming them into “sweatshop”-like East Village apartments, several former models under the agency told Mother Jones.
Trump Model Management reaped millions for the Republican nominee while employing models who did not have work visas, according to the report, which cites interviews with three former models at the agency.
Meanwhile, the models themselves were paid very little and were overcharged for crammed quarters in over-crowded East Village apartments, the report states.
“It is like modern-day slavery,” said Canadian-born model Rachel Blais, who for six months performed modeling gigs without a work visa for the agency, even appearing on “The Apprentice” to model the handiwork of contestants.
Blais is not the first to compare the agency’s dealings to slavery — former Trump model Alexia Palmer, who in 2014 filed a lawsuit against the agency alleging fraud and wage theft, has said she “felt like a slave” working for Trump.
Two other former Trump models, who spoke to Mother Jones on the condition of anonymity, said the agency never secured work visas for them during their employment — in fact, the report claims, the agency explicitly told models to lie to customs officials in order to make it into the country.
The models were housed in an apartment near Tompkins Square Park, where 11 or more people occupied bunk beds and mattresses crammed into the property’s small bedrooms, the models told Mother Jones, with one comparing the living quarters to a sweatshop.
Financial records show the agency charged Blais as much as $1,600 a month for a bunk in the crammed quarters, the report states — meanwhile, in her three years of working for the agency, she earned only $8,427.35.
Donald Trump himself has made nearly $2 million off the agency, according to financial records released by his campaign.
Models who did eventually attain legal status under the agency were secured with H-1B visas — but throughout his campaign, Trump has pledged to end the use of the visas he says are abused for cheap labor, stating the jobs should go to Americans first.
The irony of Trump’s position on the H-1B visas and his constituently anti-immigration platform — the Republican nominee has both said he would build a wall along the Mexican border and would ban Muslims from entering the United States — were not lost on the models interviewed by Mother Jones.
"He doesn't like the face of a Mexican or a Muslim,” stated one of the models, identified by the pseudonym ‘Kate,’ “but because these [models] are beautiful girls, it's okay? He's such a hypocrite.”
The irony was not lost on others who read the report as well.
Apparently Trump can't find Americans to work in his modeling agency or his hotels, so using unathorized immigrants is OK...— davegehring (@davegehring) August 30, 2016
No immigration says Trump, but if they're beautiful models then skirting US immigration regulations is fine. https://t.co/zCtUf8u7M9— Saskia Ashton (@SaskiaAshton) August 30, 2016
It seems like it’s not really the legal/illegal distinction that motivates Trump on immigration https://t.co/03LzPuLAIe— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 30, 2016
The Trump Campaign and Trump Models did not respond to requests for comment.