Donald Trump rode to victory in part by inflaming fears about immigrants. Of course, the fact that he’s married to one (actually, he’s been married to two) doesn’t seem to bother him. But the way Melania and her family have been treated contrasts sharply with how other immigrants have been treated, as the case of one gay couple illustrates.
Melania came to the U.S. from Slovenia in 1996 to work as a model, and there’s ample evidence that she began her work as an undocumented immigrant.
While she was dating Trump, Melania was able to secure what has been dubbed an “Einstein visa,” so called because it’s supposedly awarded only to immigrants with “extraordinary ability” and “sustained national and international acclaim.’ At the time, the pinnacle of Melania’s achievement was being a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.
Despite her husband’s hatred of chain migration–a derogatory term for simply allowing legal immigrants to bring their family members to the U.S.–Melania’s parents seem to have benefited from that very policy. It was recently revealed that they have secured coveted green cards, in a process shrouded in mystery.
Of course, what’s good enough for Trump’s wife and her family is not good enough for yours. Jose Ivan Nuñez and his husband, Paul Frames, found that out the hard way.
Nuñez and Frames, who were married in April 2016, went for what they thought was a routine visit to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Philadelphia in January 31. The visit was part of the ongoing process for Nuñez’s application for a green card.
“The day of the hearing, I had no suspicions at all,” Frames told NBC News. “I was very confident that the hearing would be fine, and we would be out in less than a half hour. After the fact, looking back, we were sitting ducks.”
In the middle of the visit, the interviewer paused. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers entered the room and took Nuñez into custody. Now Frames is fighting to have his husband set free.
Nuñez entered the country in 2001 without papers and was deported to his native Mexico once before. Because he entered the country again, ICE issued an “expedited order of removal,” even though Nuñez is now in the midst of the process to stay permanently.
Nuñez had been given a “Reasonable Fear Interview” by an immigration officer, on the grounds that he would face antigay violence if he is returned to Mexico. ICE clearly doesn’t care.
If you think Nuñez’s is an isolated case, think again. Before marriage became legal, the federal government wouldn’t allow gay or lesbian citizens to sponsor their partner. That meant the immigrant partner in a same-sex couple were often hit with an order of removal, threatening to separate the couple. The Obama administration stopped that policy, retroactively granting safety to multi-national same-sex couples .
With his “throw ’em all out” attitude, Trump has reversed that change. According to Aaron C. Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, a nonprofit that helps LGBTQ people in the immigration system, the Trump’s administration “is taking a much harsher and more inequitable stance,” and is “targeting anyone with a removal order, regardless of how wrong it was for the order to be issued in the first place.”
For Trump, charity begins at home. Just ask his in-laws. It’s also where it ends.