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As Trump Rails Against Immigrants, More Reminders That His Businesses Rely on and Exploit Undocumented Immigrant Workers

 

As the Trump White House seeks to reinstitute family separations and continues on their relentless effort to denigrate and dehumanize immigrants, we have new reminders that the president and his businesses are reliant on undocumented labor – he’s exploiting immigrants and profiting off immigrants’ industry and labor at the same time he depicts immigrants as the source of all  the country’s ills.

As Miriam Jordan, Annie Correal and Patricia Mazzei of the New York Times report, Trump’s businesses in South Florida are quietly firing undocumented workers who have spent years working on his properties in the region – following a similar pattern as at other Trump properties throughout the country.

It’s hypocritical, exploitative, and in desperate need of additional scrutiny by law enforcement, Congress and the press. Recently, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called for an investigation of the Trump organization following reports of the hiring and abuse of undocumented workers. These cries should grow louder with the latest revelations.

The New York Times piece is excerpted below and available in full here.  

Behind the clipped hedges of President Trump’s sumptuous private clubs in South Florida, including his Mar-a-Lago estate where he has spent many getaway weekends, there has long been a built-in contradiction to the policy the president has repeatedly described as “America First.”

…Alongside the foreign guest workers and the sizable American staff is another category of employees, mostly those who work on the pair of lush golf courses near Mar-a-Lago. Not offered apartments, they have been picked up by Trump contractors from groups of undocumented laborers at the side of the road; hired through staffing companies that assume responsibility for checking their immigration status; or brought onto the payroll with little apparent scrutiny of their Social Security cards and green cards, some of which are fake.

That second pool of immigrant labor is an embarrassing reality for a president who has railed against undocumented immigrants, one his company is scrambling to erase.

…In the case of the Trump Organization, the hiring of some immigrant labor may be about to change: Facing growing questions about its employment of undocumented workers, the company has quietly begun to take steps to eliminate any remaining undocumented workers from its labor pool in South Florida.

In March, seven veteran maintenance workers at Trump National Jupiter, the golf club 18 miles north of Mar-a-Lago that Mr. Trump purchased in 2012, were informed that the work force was being reorganized. Workers had until March 22 to provide proof that they were legally eligible to work in the United States, they were told.

One by one, the workers — from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico — began to depart. Only one of the seven was a legal resident.

“They got rid of me after so many years of hard work because I don’t have papers,” said Doroteo Hernández, 42, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who worked for 10 years on the maintenance crew at Jupiter, one of Mr. Trump’s favorite golfing spots on his weekends at Mar-a-Lago.

Mr. Hernández, a diminutive man with a weather-beaten face and workman’s hands, said that in late March he handed over 11 well-worn, button-down shirts embroidered with his name and the name of the club, 11 pairs of khakis and a club cap to his supervisor, who praised him and gave him a farewell hug.

…Similar scenes have played out at a number of Trump Organization golf properties since The New York Times first reported that two undocumented housekeepers had for several years worked in proximity to Mr. Trump at his golf property in Bedminster, N.J. Additional laborers working without legal authorization came forward at other Trump golf properties, some of them deliberately kept off the lists of workers vetted by the Secret Service.

…Meanwhile, across the county, immigrant enclaves have grown in the shadows of multimillion-dollar homes — places where the streets are lined with much humbler homes, butcher shops called carnicerías, and money-order offices where on Fridays immigrants wire money home to relatives. Unlike those living in the gated complex, the immigrants here are mainly Central American, Mexican and Haitian.

…Not long ago, groundskeepers and golf maintenance workers were directly employed at the Trump properties in Florida and frequently moved between them, according to former employees. However, in recent years, the organization transferred the work crews at Mar-a-Lago and nearby golf courses over to Barnett Management, a staffing company with headquarters in West Palm Beach that specializes in supplying golf maintenance, landscaping, farm and nursery workers, as well as setup staff for events and banquets.

In late February, Jeff Payer, the Jupiter club’s golf course superintendent, called in Mr. Hernández and the six other maintenance workers who were still on the payroll of another staffing company, Ryvor Golf, the immigrant workers said. Mr. Payer informed them that they would be transferred to Barnett, which was already handling the majority of the club’s roughly three dozen golf maintenance workers and groundskeepers, they said.

“He told us, ‘You can keep working, we trust you and know your work,’” recalled Roberto Carlos Méndez, 29, a Guatemalan. Mr. Payer declined to be interviewed and did not respond to questions.

But in early March, several of the former workers said, a Barnett representative who visited the club said they could not stay on, telling them that only workers with legal immigration papers would be allowed to transfer to Barnett’s payroll.

“I spoke personally to the Barnett guy. He told me that, unfortunately, I didn’t qualify to stay at the club,” said Mr. Méndez, who had worked at the Jupiter property since sneaking across the border nearly four years ago.

In separate interviews, five of the workers offered the same account. All said they were in the country illegally and had been hired despite having phony identification cards and Social Security numbers and as recently as two-and-a-half years ago, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Florida law does not require employers to use the E-Verify electronic verification system to check employees’ documents, though some companies, including Barnett, use it voluntarily.

…“They knew immigrants working there are here illegally,” said Giovanni Velásquez, a 23-year-old from Guatemala who said he had been allowed to continue working as long as he did because he was needed. “The know-how that I have, the work I do, can’t be easily replaced. No American wants to do it.”

…In addition to the workers who recently lost their jobs at the Jupiter club, around a dozen other undocumented workers at local pickup spots and a resource center for day laborers told The Times that they had worked stints at the golf club, brought in by contractors to install irrigation plumbing, spray insecticide and paint houses. One of them said he had worked there for years.

…As the deadline approached for the undocumented maintenance workers at the Jupiter club to leave their jobs, many pondered their futures. Mr. Méndez, one of the Guatemalan immigrants, said that he was offered maintenance work at other golf clubs, but for less than the $11 hourly wage he made at Jupiter. “If we take a job at a golf club for less, we are moving backward instead of advancing,” he said.

Daniel Federico Gómez, 23, said he had not found a job, either, though he had started to train the replacements who would be taking the workers’ places at Jupiter.

Two days before the March 22 deadline, Mr. Gómez and Mr. Méndez were the last of the undocumented group still on the job.

Mr. Velásquez had found work at an Italian restaurant washing dishes for $10 an hour. “I have to start all over,” he said. “All my experience is on the golf course.”

As for Mr. Hernández, a friend found him a landscaping job. Sitting in his neat apartment after his second day of work, he was still not sure about his salary. Mr. Payer, the golf superintendent, had found work for him and his co-workers at another golf course, Mr. Hernández said, but it was too far away for someone like him, who cannot obtain a Florida driver’s license because he has no proof of legal residence.

On his last day at Jupiter, he returned every part of his tattered Trump uniform. “They cannot say I took a single thing that didn’t belong to me,” he said.

His boss, however, had insisted he keep the cap with the club logo.