President Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida has asked permission to hire 70 foreign workers this fall, attesting — in the middle of the White House's “Made in America Week” — that it cannot find qualified Americans to serve as cooks, waiters and housekeepers.
Those requests were made to the Department of Labor in recent days and posted online Thursday. The for-profit club, where Trump spent numerous weekends this spring, asked permission to hire 15 housekeepers, 20 cooks and 35 waiters.
In addition, Trump's golf club in nearby Jupiter, Fla. asked permission to hire six foreign workers as cooks. The applications to the Department of Labor are a first step in the process of applying for H-2B visas, which would allow the clubs to bring in foreigners for temporary work between October and next May.
The applications were first reported Thursday by BuzzFeed News.
Earlier this week, the Trump administration said it would expand the number of H-2B visas available nationwide this year by 15,000, using power granted by Congress to go beyond the statutory cap of 66,000 per year. This category of visas are given to foreign workers filling temporary jobs outside the agriculture industry, in fields like construction, fishing and tourism.
Mar-a-Lago is open only during Palm Beach's ritzy winter “season,” when the club's wealthy members arrive from colder climes and the ballrooms are used for charity galas. It has applied for H-2B visas in past years, although this year's request is slightly larger than the one in 2016. That year, Trump's club asked for 64 workers: This year, he is asking for one more cook and five more waiters.
Now, the Labor Department — which reports to Trump — must make decisions that will affect two for-profit business that the president still owns.
The next step, a Department of Labor spokesman said, is that the two clubs must take steps to try to recruit American workers for these jobs. That often involves placing help-wanted ads in local newspapers and contacting former workers. If those efforts are unsuccessful, then Trump's clubs can ask for the Department of Labor to certify that it has tried and failed to hire Americans. After that, the Trump clubs can ask the Department of Homeland Security to issue visas for workers it has found in other countries.
Egan Reich, a spokesman for the Labor Department who is a career employee, wrote in response to inquiries from The Washington Post that "The Department of Labor does not give preference or special treatment to any business or individual.”
Trump built his campaign last year in part on an appeal to American workers angry that their jobs had been taken by immigrants or laborers overseas. In his inaugural address, Trump said that under his leadership the country would “follow two simple rules: buy American, and hire American.”
And this week, Trump has celebrated American companies and American labor, including an event at the White House where the president climbed into the cab of an American-made firetruck. In a proclamation Monday, Trump said he called “upon Americans to pay special tribute to the builders, to the ranchers, to the crafters, and to all those who work every day to make America great.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to questions sent by email on Thursday afternoon, asking why American workers could not be found to fill these jobs — and if the company had made any extra efforts this year, in light of Trump's calls to hire American workers.
The Secret Service did not respond to a query asking whether it would have a role in vetting any foreign laborers hired to work in a club that serves, at times, as the president's home.