As winter approaches and the days get shorter, Florida is preparing for an influx of snowbirds, the nickname given to people who’d rather winter in the Sunshine State instead of, well, anywhere the temperature isn’t 83 degrees on Thanksgiving Day.
And with the tourists comes a temporary boost for the industries that serve them.
Those winter employment opportunities are typically menial and by definition temporary jobs that can be hard to fill. So Florida employers turn to immigrant labor by the thousands — people who are granted a temporary visa and spend a few months working in Florida. Demand meets supply, and beefed-up businesses hum along without much controversy.
Unless, of course, those businesses happen to be owned by the president of the United States — particularly one who has blasted companies for hiring immigrants over American workers.
President Trump recently won permission from the Labor Department to hire 70 cooks, maids and servers to work at his ritzy Mar-a-Lago Club for the tourist season, according to the Palm Beach Post. That’s six more than Trump hired last tourist season. He’s contributing to an influx of 2,159 immigrant workers snapping up the temporary jobs in Palm Beach County.
The county’s unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent in September, according to the newspaper — the lowest level in a decade. And people ensconced in jobs with decent wages and long-term prospects are less likely to seek out the area’s most menial jobs during the winter months.
But for Trump, it’s a politically fraught issue.
As The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold reported in July:
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.”
. . . 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.
This summer, in an official proclamation, the president dubbed July 17, 2017 “Made in America Day,” a time to “recognize the vital contributions of American workers and job creators to our Nation’s prosperity and strength.”
That same week, Mar-a-Lago was applying for H-2B visas to hire non-American workers. Mar-a-Lago is only open during Palm Beach’s winter season, when members descend from colder climates.
Before being granted permission to hire foreigners, Trump’s two Florida clubs — he also owns a golf course in Jupiter — had to show that no one else wanted the jobs. That included calling old employees and putting ads in the newspaper.
It’s unclear whether the Trump Organization had made an extra effort to try to fill the jobs.
In July, the club placed an ad on Page C8 of the Palm Beach Post: “3 mos recent & verifiable exp in fine dining/country club,” the ad said. “No tips,” Fahrenthold reported.
The ad, which ran twice, gave no email address, mailing address or phone number and instructed applicants to “Apply by fax.”
During a debate of Republican presidential candidates in 2016, Trump defended the practice:
“It’s very, very hard to get people. But other hotels do the exact same thing. . . . This is a procedure. It’s part of the law,” he said. “I take advantage of that. There’s nothing wrong with it. We have no choice.”
Washington Post contributor Lori Rozsa found several U.S. citizens willing to work at one of Trump’s luxury properties during a local job fair near Mar-a-Lago.
“Oh, my God, working at Mar-a-Lago is my dream job,” Sky Chester, a job hunter with experience in the service industry, told Rozsa. “I would do anything: make beds, scrub toilets, whatever they need. Just to get my foot in the door at Mar-a-Lago would be amazing. That place is the top of the top.”
Rekiya Overstreet was similarly enthusiastic about possibly working at Trump’s resort.
“I would work there, absolutely,” Overstreet said. “I think it would be a great opportunity. But I think they prefer to hire foreign workers.”