Donald Trump has made immigration a cornerstone of his bid for the presidency. His campaign has not been shy about using his wife Melania's own experience as a "lawful" immigrant to justify why her husband is pushing such a draconian immigration proposal that would deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. They and she have stated, if she can follow the law, everyone else should too.
However, there are now questions arising as to how she arrived here, the truthfulness of the statements she has made about the process she followed, and the lawfulness of the process Melania herself used to come to the United States, work, obtain a green card and ultimately become a citizen.
Here is what Mrs. Trump has said in the past about her immigration experience:
"I came here for my career, and I did so well, I moved here. It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are. You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa. After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001. After the green card, I applied for citizenship. And it was a long process." — Harper's Bazaar in an interview earlier this year.
"I never thought to stay here without papers. I had a visa, I traveled every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa. I came back, I applied for the green card, I applied for the citizenship later on after many years of green card. So I went by system, I went by the law." — Morning Joe with Mika Brezinski earlier this year as well.
Immigration law is incredibly complicated and Melania's narrative up to now seems to make sense to most Americans. However, people should know there is no known visa category that would have allowed Mrs. Trump to live and work in the United States, and at the same time required that she return to her home country "every few months" to get a new visa "stamp.” This kind of visa is a visitor visa which is normally granted on a multiple year basis, allowing a person to stay in the U.S. for a specified amount of time, after which they need to leave the country, and return, if they want to and get freshly stamped at a port of entry.
Importantly, one is not allowed to lawfully work while on a visitor visa.
The other questionable issue which has arisen is whether Melania has a college degree. If Mrs. Trump was actually on an HI-B visa or another work related visa, this visa most likely required a college degree.
We saw last week that the Trump campaign quietly took down Melania's website, which declared she had obtained a college degree in design and architecture from her home country of Slovenia. In fact, the Trump campaign has admitted that she only attended a single semester of college, making her years of claiming to have graduated from said college, a lie.
This is relevant because, aside from the potential First Lady building her image upon a farce, there are some types of visas available to immigrants that would allow them to stay and work in the country but these require a college degree or its equivalent. Melania has repeatedly said she was working while she was here. So what type of visa did she obtain and did she obtain it by stating she indeed had a college degree?
The question for Trump, his wife and his campaign is what exactly was the process Melania followed? What was her stated purpose of seeking entry to the U.S in the first place, and what visa did she use to stay and work?
Why does this matter? Precisely because Mr. and Mrs. Trump and his campaign have all used Melania's example of following U.S. immigration law as a way to justify Donald Trump's deportation plans.
Additionally, in her bid to become First Lady of the United States, Melania deserves fair and necessary in-depth scrutiny, enjoyed by previous potential First Ladies, about her past, her history, her interests, and what she would do as the wife of a President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE.
Did Mrs. Trump, or those agents acting on her behalf, commit immigration fraud? Were immigration officials mislead if she did indeed receive a work visa improperly? Or did she abuse the U.S. visa system by working without the appropriate authorization to do so?
If the campaign believes this is much ado about nothing, and Melania followed the letter of the law in coming here, working here, getting a green card, and becoming a citizen, the way they all say every prospective immigrant should do; there is an easy way to dispense of these mounting questions and doubts.
The Trump campaign needs to immediately release the complete immigration and naturalization records of Melania Trump.
Will Trump and his campaign answer these important questions? Or will they be ignored the way questions about Trump's tax returns have been?
The American people deserve to know how their potential First Lady got here and how she came to call herself a citizen of this great country. Especially when she and her husband's campaign use her experience as an example for all other potential immigrants to follow.
Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.
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