On Wednesday morning, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) stepped up her efforts for a federal investigation into Trump Model Management, the GOP nominee’s New York modeling firm. Last week, Boxer asked the director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security, to open an investigation into the company’s immigration practices, following a Mother Jones investigation that cited three former models who say they worked for the company illegally.
After speaking to former Trump model Rachel Blais (featured in Mother Jones‘ story), Boxer today asked the Department of Labor to investigate the agency’s employment practices, which include hiring models as young as 14 and allegedly harboring them, up to six per room, in cramped collective housing.
“Blais was particularly concerned about the treatment of the girls, some as young as 14, who were actively recruited by the modeling agency,” Boxer wrote in the letter to Labor Secretary Tom Perez. “She told me that many underage girls lived with her in cramped dormitories.”
She added, “As you know, our labor laws were written to protect workers, especially children, young women and other vulnerable populations, from abuse and exploitation.”
The letter details several issues Boxer would like the Department of Labor to consider, including whether Trump’s agency was seeking to “violate federal laws that seek to protect workers from unfair treatment and wage theft,” and whether the models minors were legally supported by the company.
“We must protect our children!” Boxer wrote in blue marker at the end of the letter. Read the full letter here:
Senator Barbara Boxer
Mother JonesThe Trump Model Management investigation found that foreign models were indeed competing for work visas while performing a range of modeling jobs for the company while in the United States as tourists, including posing for high profile magazine shoots and runway appearances. Two former models also described how they were encouraged by Trump’s company to evade customs officials when they entered the country, including by lying about their New York addresses on federal customs forms. While working for the company, the models recalled living in a basement dorm in the village in East New York that could be occupied by 11 or more people. The rent for a single bunk in the apartment could be as high as $1,600 a month and was deducted from the models’ earnings, if they earned enough to pay off debt in New York’s competitive industry.
The immigration practices portrayed by former Trump models stand in stark contrast to the hardline stance on immigration that Donald Trump took during the campaign trail. Trump’s running mate, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, described the allegations as “secondary” issues.
So far, no one from Trump’s modeling agency has responded to multiple requests for Mother Jones. But last Thursday, Ronald Lieberman, executive vice president for management and development at the Trump Organization, commented on the story for Bloomberg BNA. He did not deny that Trump’s foreign models had worked in the United States without proper visas, saying only that the cases highlighted in Mother JonesThe story took place “many, many years ago”.