Under "his own legislation," Donald Trump's "own family would not have been allowed into the country."  

Randy Bryce on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 in a campaign appearance

Would Trump bill have kept his grandfather and Melania from immigrating to U.S.? (And you, too?)

First Lady Melania Trump. (AP)

In his bid to win the southern Wisconsin U.S. House seat held by GOP Speaker Paul Ryan, Democrat Randy Bryce is also running against President Donald Trump.

The iron worker and union leader, who has raised more than $1 million, criticized Trump at a Jan. 10, 2018 campaign event in Racine, saying:

His own legislation, what he wants to do as far as (unintelligible) immigrants, his own family would not have been allowed into the country, based on what he's doing.

In other words, if legislation backed by Trump had been in place years ago, would his own family have been barred from entering the United States?

As we’ll see, Bryce points to two family members -- Trump’s paternal grandfather and his current wife -- and pending legislation that would create a point system for qualifying to immigrate to the United States.

What we found is that odds would have been against -- perhaps heavily against -- both Friedrich Trump and Melania Trump, but that Bryce’s declaration goes too far. There are a number of unknowns, particularly with Melania, which means there isn’t evidence to prove she would not have been allowed to immigrate.

Pending immigration legislation

The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act was introduced in August 2017 and endorsed by Trump and is pending in the U.S. Senate. It is aimed at reducing legal immigration levels by half over a decade.

The bill, as reported by PolitiFact National, would shift legal immigration into the United States from a system favoring family reunification to one based on skills and merit.

People applying to immigrate would have to achieve at least 30 points under a system that would award points based primarily on age (younger is better), education (especially science and technology advanced degrees), ability to speak English, an offer of a high-paying job having been made and bringing along more than $1 million to invest.

The New York Times offered a test you can take online and it quoted an economist who estimated that only 2 percent of Americans would get the 30 points needed just to be considered for immigration.

The test

Here’s another quick version of the test, offered by TIME, followed by our analysis of how Friedrich and Melania Trump might have scored had the RAISE legislation been in place when they came to the United States.

How old are you?
Under 18 cannot apply
18-21 6 points
22-25 8 points
26-30 10 points
31-35 8 points
36-40 6 points
41-45 4 points
46-50 2 points
Over 50 0 points
What's your highest level of education?
Less than high school diploma 0 points
High school diploma or foreign equivalent 1 point
Foreign bachelor's 5 points
U.S. bachelor's 6 points
Foreign master's in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics 7 points
U.S. master’s in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics 8 points
Foreign professional degree or doctorate in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics 10 points
U.S. professional degree or doctorate in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics 13 points
What's your English ability?
Poor 0 points
Moderate 6 points
Good 10 points
Excellent 11 points
Fluent 12 points
Do you have a job offer?
No 0 points
Yes, with a salary less than $77,900 0 points
Yes, with a salary of at least $77,900 5 points
Yes, with a salary of at least $103,900 8 points
Yes, with a salary of at least $155,800 13 points
Do you have a Nobel Prize or major international award?
Yes 25 points
No 0 points
Have you won an Olympic medal in the past 8 years?
Yes 15 points
No 0 points
Do you plan on investing money in the U.S.?
No 0 points
Yes, with foreign currency worth less than $1.35 million for a new commercial enterprise 0 points
Yes, with foreign currency worth between $1.35 million and $1.8 million for a new commercial enterprise 6 points
Yes, with foreign currency worth at least $1.8 million for a new commercial enterprise 12 points

Grandfather Friedrich Trump

Friedrich Trump immigrated from Germany to the United States in 1885 at age 16. Under RAISE, he could not have applied for immigration until he turned 18.

A Washington Post analysis cited to us by Bryce’s campaign noted Friedrich Trump’s lack of English-speaking and lack of high-level job skills, and concluded that had the RAISE Act been in place, Trump "would likely not have gained entry to the United States."

Washington University law professor emeritus Stephen Legomsky, an immigration law specialist, went further. He told us that "even under the most favorable assumptions, it’s extremely unlikely" that Friedrich Trump would have amassed the minimum of 30 points just to be considered for immigration. Syracuse University political science professor Elizabeth Cohen, whose specialties include immigration, called Friedrich’s chances "highly unlikely."

Gwenda Blair, a Columbia University journalism adjunct faculty member and author of The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President, helped us understand why Friedrich would have had such an uphill battle. She told us that before Friedrich immigrated, he had little, if any English-speaking skills; almost certainly had not finished high school; having trained as a barber’s apprentice, almost certainly would not have had a high-paying job awaiting him in New York; and, coming from a low-income family, almost certainly would not have had a large sum of money to invest.

As for the first lady, the case is not overly favorable, but also not clear cut.

Wife Melania Trump

Bryce’s campaign pointed us to a San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News article. It declared that if RAISE were in place when Melania Trump arrived with a temporary visa "she wouldn’t stand a chance of being able to stay."

According to the Mercury News: Melania, a native of Slovenia, first came to the United States, at age 26, on a tourist visa in August 1996. A few months later, she obtained an H-1B visa for skilled workers. There’s some question about whether she did some modeling work before getting her H-1B visa as well as how she obtained a green card in 2001. She married Trump in 2006 and became a U.S. citizen. "At best, Melania could probably score about 21 points, so there would be no visa for her," the article said.

She did have more going for her than Friedrich did.

English: Melania currently speaks English with a heavy accent, but it’s one of five languages she’s reportedly fluent in. There’s no way to know, at the time she came to the United States, whether her English-speaking skills would have earned her zero points, 12, or some number in between.

Education: Melania briefly studied architecture and design at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. But, according to Vanity Fair, she dropped out after winning runner-up in a beauty contest. So, for a high school diploma or the equivalent, that’s one point.

Job awaiting: At age 18, in Milan, Italy, Melania signed on with a modeling agency that said it sponsored the visa that brought her to New York in 1996. In New York in 1996, Melania would have needed a starting salary of at least $53,100 to earn any points, according to Cohen.

Means: Another unknown is whether Melania could have brought along a large sum of money, even if that seems unlikely. Melania’s father managed a chain of car and motorcycle dealerships, and her mother was either a fashion designer or a garment factory worker, according to the New York Post. She would have earned points if she could have come over with the current equivalent of more than $1.35 million.

Legomsky, the Washington University law professor, pointed out that even if Melania amassed 30 points, which he said was unlikely, it would be difficult for her to be chosen for immigration given that more applicants would have much higher scores. But he said he could not say for certain. Syracuse’s Cohen said Melania "probably would have come close" to hitting 30 points, and potentially could have exceeded 30, depending on her English proficiency and the salary of her first job.

The White House responded to our request seeking information about Bryce’s claim, but did not provide any information.

Our rating

Bryce says that under Donald Trump’s "own legislation," Trump's "own family would not have been allowed into the country."

It seems unlikely, perhaps highly unlikely, that either Trump’s grandfather or his wife would have earned enough points under the legislation to be eligible for immigration. But, particularly with Melania Trump, it can’t be known for certain.

For a statement that is partially accurate but needs clarification, our rating is Half True.

Share the Facts
PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Half True
Under "his own legislation," Donald Trump's "own family would not have been allowed into the country."
In a campaign appearance
Wednesday, January 10, 2018