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After years of enduring humiliation as a worker at President Trump’s Bedminster property, Victorina Morales was invited to share her story on The Daily, the popular New York Times podcast. Ms. Morales explains, in an interview entitled “Undocumented and Working to Trump,” how Trump’s demonization of immigrants ultimately led her to speak out against the President’s hypocrisy and cruelty, and how her manager provided her with the “proper” documentation to continue working for them while subjecting her, and others like her, to workplace abuse.
Laila Lalami’s latest piece for The Nation, entitled “Trump’s Housekeeper Airs His Dirty Laundry,” explains how this issue isn’t unique to Trump, but is an ongoing and rampant problem where “In public, politicians demonize immigrants. In private, they exploit them for personal gain.”
Below are excerpts from both.
The Daily’s “Undocumented and Working for Trump” is available online here:
… It never occurred to her that the President knew or didn’t know about her immigration status, all she wanted was an explanation. The manager arrived one day and told Vicki she needed to renew her papers, that is, her social security card, I assume, and her green card because they had expired. She said ‘I don’t know where to get them,’ and he said ‘Well, I can figure this out,” or something to that effect, went off somewhere and came back, and basically had arranged for someone to take her to a place where another set of phony documents could be produced or manufacture on the spot.
… that was enough to keep Vicki employed at the golf club to this day.
… When she turned on the TV and she saw the President speaking about immigrants in a derogatory fashion, she was offended, because after all, you know it’s mainly immigrants, hispanics who do the work at the golf club there are very few Americans. She couldn’t reconcile the person whom she had met at the golf course, and who she took a liking to, with this character on television who was maligning immigrants.
… According to Vicki the real Donald Trump is the Donald Trump who separated children from their mothers, who swears he’ll build a wall, and who uses the caravan to rail against people like her. Vicki just decided I’ve had enough, I can’t take this anymore. She was crying sometimes on the job, her coworkers were in tears on the job. And she just decided it was time to come forward, someone had to speak up.
… Vicki said that she was aware that she would lose her job, and that it occurred to her that she could be even be deported, but it was time to come out of this hole and to speak out. And she doesn’t regret doing it.
… She wants the President to know that immigrants like her are tired of the humiliation, and they deserve to be treated better. Basically, she was prepared to take the risk because you know, even if something happens to her, she’s speaking for everybody. This is something that needed to come to light. The truth needed to be said.
Laila Lalami’s article is available in full here.
Last week, when I read the story about Donald Trump’s undocumented housekeeper, I was filled with rage and sadness. Rage because it was yet another example of the president doing something he’d campaigned against; sadness because many politicians demonize immigrants to win votes, while relying on their labor for profit.
During her five years as a housekeeper, Victorina Morales washed the president’s clothes, ironed his underwear, and cleaned his villa at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. She was even awarded a certificate from the White House Communications Agency in recognition of her performance. But throughout this entire time, she lacked the official papers necessary for her employment.
In an interview, Morales told The New York Times that a supervisor had helped her procure fake documents. She said she knew the risks of going public with this, but was moved to speak out because of the derogatory remarks that Trump regularly makes about immigrants, which—combined with comments from one of her managers—made her work life unendurable. “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.
… Trump is by no means unique in publicly vilifying undocumented immigrants while privately profiting from their work. The family of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who represents California’s San Joaquin Valley, quietly moved their dairy farm to Sibley, Iowa, where it reportedly employs undocumented workers. Both Nunes and the congressman who represents Sibley—that would be the openly racist Steve King—have supported Trump’s draconian immigration policies. A year before that, Andrew Puzder, a fast-food executive whose nomination as Trump’s secretary of labor was being scrutinized for labor violations, found himself under criticism for employing an undocumented housekeeper. Puzder claimed that he was unaware she was undocumented, and said he’d paid back taxes for that worker to the IRS—after he was nominated.
Nor is the hypocrisy on immigration restricted to Republicans. Remember Nannygate? In 1993, two of Bill Clinton’s nominees for US attorney general, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, had to withdraw because they had employed undocumented domestic workers. The story of Donald Trump and Victorina Morales, then, is emblematic of a much larger dynamic in the United States: We have a system that uses cheap, undocumented labor to deliver goods or services to consumers and vast profit to employers.
… In a few days or weeks, Victorina Morales’s story will disappear from the headlines, but the legal and moral issues that contributed to it will not. Undocumented immigrants help the elite make money, only to be used and abused by that same elite to win elections. We must do better. We must demand comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to legalization, punishes labor abuses, and protects undocumented workers.