This is a story about a questionable, immigration-related sleight of hand within New York's Trump Tower, and about high fashion, but it has very little to do with The Donald (who lives there) and nothing to do with alien fashion models allegedly working for his model agency while in illegal status in the past.
It does deal with a tenant of Trump Tower that is charging its alien students in the range of $80,000 to $105,000 a year for education in the fashion industry, an entity that does this despite the fact that it has never secured an easy-to-get permit from the Department of Homeland Security to teach foreign students or a somewhat harder-to-obtain license to grant degrees in the State of New York.
One would expect that it would need both sets of documents to do what it appears to be doing, providing academic degrees in the business of fashion to alien students. This odd situation was reported by Lauren Sherman, the U.S. correspondent for Business of Fashion, a London-based publication.
Ms. Sherman reports that the school in question, variously identified as the Legacy Business School and as affiliated with the European School of Economics (ESE), until recently had Kris Jenner as its board chairman. Ms. Jenner is the mother of the Kardashian women, the builder of the Kardashian media empire, and former spouse to the former Bruce Jenner, the former male Olympian athlete who has been converted into the much-photographed Caitlyn Jenner. The school's website no longer carries Kris Jenner's name and, while we are dealing with negatives, Trump did not own Legacy, as he did Trump University.
The Daily Beast reported that ESE has been on the New York scene for at least a decade and "has been sued a dozen times in the US alone since 2006 for failing to make good on their debts." What's more, according to the same source, the New York State Education Department "had been trying for years to stop [the school] from operating without legal approval."
Trump's involvement in the school is minimal. He apparently has come to several fund-raising galas there and was quoted as saying that it is a great school and has been a great tenant.
Setting aside for the moment the for-profit school's glittering address, its glamorous connections, and its financial woes, how does it continue to teach what Business of Fashion believes is an all-alien, all-wealthy set of students without DHS permission to do so?
Here comes the sleight of hand, as reported by Ms. Sherman:
When asked what sort of assistance Legacy provides its students to enter and reside in the US legally, Nomellini explained that foreign students enrolled at Legacy are typically enrolled at Rennert, an English-teaching school that is able to issue the I-20 document to students. "International students studying at Legacy are required to express a primary interest in mastering their English," he said. "Students are required to study at Rennert International 20 hours a week ... to maintain their [Student and Exchange Visitor Information System] status. After meeting the weekly requirements at Rennert International, students subsequently attend Legacy Business School."
Allesandro Nomellini is Legacy's CEO. Rennert is a DHS-licensed English-language training school.
So we are supposed to believe that these foreign fashion students, whose families are paying tuition rates higher than those at Harvard Business School, have agreed to spend 20 hours a week in English language classes before they take a single class in the fashion business, and thus for all their months to years at Legacy they are carrying two full academic loads, one to learn English and the other to learn the fashion business?
That scenario strikes me as unlikely, both exhausting and expensive. (Rennert's webpage indicates that 52 weeks of 20 hours a week of English instruction comes to $20,020 on top of Legacy's tuition, and all in addition to the cost of living in New York City — a truly pricey education.)
What probably happens is that the English lessons slide away and as long as both schools are paid their tuition; no one reports any violations to DHS and most of the foreign students are actually in illegal status most of the time because they are unlikely to be spending 20 hours a week in the English classes.
Donald Trump is going to build a great wall to prevent illegal aliens from entering the United States from the south; what has he been doing to keep them out of the building where he sleeps every night?
Meanwhile a long string of city, state, and federal officials, all Democrats and all current or former residents of New York, ranging from the New York County district attorney, the mayor, the governor, and the heads of the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, all the way up to the president of the United States, and all their subordinates, are similarly ignoring the blatantly illegal activity in Trump Tower.
Expensive for a few alien fashion wanna-bes and depressing for the rest of us.