Media can't get over the FLOTUS citizenship question

Last month we looked at the Washington Post’s jaw-dropping attempt at “fact checking” the details of the immigration status of First Lady Melania Trump and her parents. That was a true tour de force in the fact-checking world since they asked a variety of questions and then proceeded to list a number of possible answers, basically ranked by people who wanted to try guessing, while finally admitting that they had no answers to either prove or disprove the original claims. One might have thought that such a boondoggle would be the end of that particular trainwreck.

One would be wrong. The WaPo is back at it again this week, delving further into questions of how the First Lady scored an EB-1 visa (known as an “Einstein visa”), replete with plenty of insinuations about how she and the President must have gamed the system.

Immigration experts said the president’s efforts to restrict legal immigration spotlight lingering questions about how the first lady and her family members obtained residency in the United States.

The biggest one: How did she convince immigration authorities that she qualified for the EB-1 program?

Morrison, the former congressman and immigration expert, said that Melania Trump’s résumé in 2001 seems “inconsistent” with the requirements of the visa.

To obtain an EB-1 under the extraordinary ability category, an immigrant has to provide evidence of a major award or meet at least three out of 10 criteria. Among them: evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts, evidence of work displayed at artistic exhibitions and evidence of original contributions to a field.

Much like many aspects of dealing with the federal government, acceptance in the EB-1 visa program probably comes down largely to who you know. In the case of (then) Melania Knauss, being the girlfriend (and later fiancee) of Donald Trump probably didn’t hurt. But does that mean she somehow skirted the rules? While they refer to this program as the “Einstein visa” a quick look at the requirements show that you could qualify through achievements which fall considerably short of discovering general relativity. As a model, the First Lady would have had to have fallen under the “extraordinary ability” category, as opposed to the descriptions of “professors and researchers” or “multinational managers or executives.” Here’s the basic description.

You must be able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim. Your achievements must be recognized in your field through extensive documentation. No offer of employment is required.

To meet that critiera, Citizenship and Immigration Services offers ten possible markers of success and you need to prove three of them to qualify. Some are indeed daunting, such as proving that you have demonstrated evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media or, receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence. But some others sound generic enough that a high-profile model could have readily qualified, particularly considering how vague the descriptions are.

  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media: She was in Sports Illustrated as well as any number of product line advertisements.
  • Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases: See above.
  • Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field: Goes without saying if youve been in Sports Illustrated.
  • Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts: See above.

Assuming you consider modeling to be part of the “performing arts” (which can be just about anything these days, including sitting in a chair for hours on end) this isn’t a high bar to meet. And, again, I imagine a lot of that depends on who is doing the judging and who you know.

In the end, I think what really drives the WaPo batty about Melania Trump is that they can’t find any easy route to tear her down. Since her last name is Trump she’s an obvious target, but what is there really to complain about? Being First Lady isn’t an elected office and the spouse of the President isn’t supposed to be getting involved in government business. Melania isn’t out there trying to rewrite the nation’s health care laws or change school menus for the Education Department. She travels to visit sick children in hospitals, hosts dinners at the White House and generally goes to diplomatic events with her husband to smile, wave and cheer people up.

And what the Washington Post probably hates the most about her is the fact that people really seem to like her. (Considerably more than her husband, to be honest.) And what does the First Lady think about all of this debate over the immigration status of her family? Well, she recently “liked” a tweet about the story. Perhaps she just finds it all amusing.