On Friday evening, the Associated Press dropped a bombshell: Melania Trump allegedly worked illegally in the United States as a model prior to gaining her work visa in the early '90s. The Slovenia-born wife of the GOP presidential nominee has long maintained that she has only ever worked legally in America, and her husband has promised to come down hard on those who defy the United States' immigration laws. Melania's lawyer said in a statement to the AP, "These documents, which have not been verified, do not reflect our records," but the campaign did not provide additional comment.
The Associated Press noted that it had obtained records that indicated that Melania had earned just over $20,000 at a time in which she was allegedly not permitted to perform paid work, although she was allowed to seek work. (The Trump campaign did not comment on these specific allegations, but Melania has long insisted she has only legally performed work in America.) Shortly after this period, according to the AP, Melania applied for and successfully obtained a series of visas that allowed her to remain and work legally in the United States.
The report comes at a time when the campaign hoped it was done with so-called "October surprises"; since losing ground to Hillary Clinton this fall after the Access Hollywood reveal and subsequent sexual assault allegations that derailed Donald Trump's candidacy — allegations Trump vehemently denied — the GOP nominee has been steadily rising in the national polls. The AP noted that having sought these documents since August, only this week did it obtain them; in other words, in the week before Election Day.
One of Trump's key platforms has been anti-immigrant rhetoric, at one point extending to Trump saying that he would temporarily "ban" Muslims from entering the United States in an effort to quell terrorist threats. He also famously promised to "build a wall" between Mexico and the U.S., and swore that the wall would be paid for in full by Mexico. (During a contentious state visit, Mexico refuted this.)
Melania Trump has never released her immigration records, just as her husband has held back from releasing his tax records. The move is unprecedented for a presidential candidate in the United States.
The irony in the Associated Press report, of course, is stark: Although Melania has claimed she never violated her immigration status, these documents would suggest that Trump married an individual he would support deporting. It remains to see how Melania's immigration status could affect a race so close to its conclusion.