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ICYMI: NYTimes: “Making President Trump’s Bed: A Housekeeper Without Papers”

 

Miriam Jordan of the New York Times is out with an explosive piece regarding the mistreatment of immigrant workers and potential criminal behavior by the people in charge at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. A brave whistleblower – Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala and a housekeeper – has bravely come forward to expose the abuse and hypocrisy of a President who rails against the very people his flagship property employs and exploits.

The exposé raises serious questions of criminal activity and prohibited employment practices at the club, including forgery, engaging in a pattern and practice of knowingly recruiting, hiring and employing unauthorized workers, exploitation, threats and coercion for personal and financial gain. These actions would be shocking if perpetrated by any U.S. employer, let alone the Trump Organization.

Vulnerable immigrant workers need to be protected. A robust and independent investigation is clearly needed. The President’s hypocrisy needs to be called out.

The piece is excerpted below or available online in full here.

During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.

Because of the “outstanding” support she has provided during Mr. Trump’s visits, Ms. Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name.

Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

Ms. Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.

She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally.

Sandra Diaz, 46, a native of Costa Rica who is now a legal resident of the United States, said she, too, was undocumented when she worked at Bedminster between 2010 and 2013. The two women said they worked for years as part of a group of housekeeping, maintenance and landscaping employees at the golf club that included a number of undocumented workers, though they could not say precisely how many. There is no evidence that Mr. Trump or Trump Organization executives knew of their immigration status. But at least two supervisors at the club were aware of it, the women said, and took steps to help workers evade detection and keep their jobs.

…But Ms. Morales said she has been hurt by Mr. Trump’s public comments since he became president, including equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals. It was that, she said, along with abusive comments from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and immigration status, that made her feel that she could no longer keep silent.

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she said. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

…Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz approached The New York Times through their New Jersey lawyer, Anibal Romero, who is representing them on immigration matters. Ms. Morales said that she understood she could be fired or deported as a result of coming forward, though she has applied for protection under the asylum laws. She is also exploring a lawsuit claiming workplace abuse and discrimination.

In separate, hourslong interviews in Spanish, Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz provided detailed accounts of their work at the club and their interactions with management, including Mr. Trump. Both women described the president as demanding but kind, sometimes offering hefty tips.

…She said she washed and ironed Mr. Trump’s white boxers, golf shirts and khaki trousers, as well as his sheets and towels. Everything belonging to Mr. Trump, his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, was washed with special detergent in a smaller, separate washing machine, she said.

“He is extremely meticulous about everything. If he arrives suddenly, everyone runs around like crazy” because Mr. Trump inspects everything closely, Ms. Diaz said.

…Soon after Mr. Trump launched his campaign for the presidency, in June 2015, Ms. Morales recalled, one of the managers summoned her to tell her that she could no longer work inside Mr. Trump’s house.

Around the same time, she said, several workers, who she said were also working illegally, had their work days shaved from five days to three days. “The workers panicked. A lot of people just left,” she said.

Two months after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, in March 2017, Ms. Morales said that she and other workers received a new employee handbook.

Under a section titled “Immigration Compliance,” the handbook stated that employees were required to present documents specified by the federal government. “Those that are found to have falsified information will not be eligible for employment,” the handbook stated.

Ms. Morales said she was given a new employment form to sign. She could not understand the form, she said, but her lawyer, Mr. Romero, said it was likely an updated I-9 employment eligibility document — a form that, like the previous one, referenced her falsified documents.

Sometime last year, she said, one of the managers told her she must get both a new green card and new Social Security card because there were problems with her current ones.

Ms. Morales provided a detailed account of what transpired, but it was not possible to independently confirm what happened. According to her recollection, she told the manager that she did not know how to obtain new forgeries.

“I don’t know where to get them,’ ” she said she told him.

The manager, she said, suggested she speak with a maintenance employee who he said knew where to acquire new documents. When the maintenance employee told her that the new papers would cost $165, Ms. Morales told the manager that she did not have the money. “He said, ‘don’t worry. I will lend you the money,’” she said.

Ms. Morales said the maintenance worker drove her to a house in Plainfield, N.J., where she waited in his car while he met with someone inside. Ms. Morales said that she had no record or recollection of the address.

The next day, she said, the maintenance worker brought her a new Social Security card and a realistic-looking green card to replace the one that had “expired.” She said the manager made copies of them for files kept at the club’s administrative headquarters.