Watch Elon Musk talk about being an “illegal immigrant”

Watch Elon Musk talk about being an “illegal immigrant”

Musk called his immigration status a ‘gray area’ while discussing the 1990s.

Elon Musk has spent the better part of a year complaining about “illegal immigrants” who are “invading” the country. But an old video from 2013 resurfaced on Saturday that appears to show the billionaire admitting he was at one point building his small business in the country illegally, describing it as a “gray area.”



The video comes from an interview conducted by the Milken Institute in May 2013 featuring Elon Musk and his brother Kimbal Musk. The two men were describing their journey from where they grew up in South Africa to Canada and eventually to the United States.

The video shows Kimbal talking about Zip2, the company Elon founded in 1995, and the challenge of raising money in the 1990s. The two men were amazed that anyone would invest $3 million in their company.

“In fact, when they did fund us, they realized that we were illegal immigrants,” Kimball says in the video.

“Well, I mean…” Elon says.

“Yes, we were,” Kimbal replies.

“I’d say it was a gray area,” Elon insists as the crowd laughs.

“We were illegal immigrants…” Kimbal says, continuing his story about how they were sleeping in an office when raising money from venture capitalists.



The video of the appearance is available on YouTube but has just 4,500 views at the time of this writing. We’ve clipped the relevant portion below so you can see for yourself.

Elon Musk Seems to Admit He Was ‘Illegal Immigrant’

Elon Musk Seems to Admit He Was ‘Illegal Immigrant’

What did Elon mean when he said it was a “gray area”? That part is unclear. But it’s common for some people on one type of visa to sometimes overstay or operate in areas that are technically outside the law. For example, anyone who enters the U.S. on a tourist visa is prohibited from conducting business and earning an income through paid work. Those on student visas also have to follow strict rules when working in the country. Even those on an H-1B visa, which allows people to work in the U.S. legally, are prohibited from earning money outside their primary employer of record.



Elon has previously called himself a “legal” immigrant in other interviews, which makes this interview with his brother stick out as perhaps a more honest assessment of how he actually lived in the country during the 1990s. It just took his brother to accidentally admit they may have been stretching the legality of their visas.

Why does it matter if Elon was living in the U.S. under uncertain circumstances? Most people would probably find the story of a scrappy upstart trying to make it in the U.S. as an endearing example of ingenuity and hard work. But given Musk’s vitriolic rhetoric in the past year against immigrants, it would be particularly ironic if it turned out Musk himself was testing the boundaries of U.S. immigration law during his earliest years in the country.

“This administration is both importing voters and creating a national security threat from unvetted illegal immigrants,” Musk wrote last month expressing a sentiment that has become common for the billionaire.

Musk has repeatedly made the unfounded allegation that President Joe Biden is trying to “import” voters, something that doesn’t make any sense given the fact that only citizens are allowed to vote in federal elections. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, replied to one of Musk’s rants about immigration recently with, “You’re literally an immigrant.”

Musk didn’t respond to questions emailed on Monday about his immigration status and whether he was operating outside the bounds of his visa in the 1990s. Gizmodo will update this post if we hear back.

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