The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion President Trump uses undocumented immigrant labor. Is anyone surprised?

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If I told you that President Trump employs undocumented immigrants, you might say, “That’s impossible. A staunch and principled opponent of illegal immigrants like him would never allow such a thing!” Or, if you actually knew anything about Trump, you might say, “Of course he does.”

Well guess what:

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.

Obviously Trump doesn’t personally hire every housekeeper in his clubs (although one of these undocumented immigrants was ironing his underwear; that’s how close to him they were). The Trump organization says it will fire any of its workers it learns is in the country illegally. But the truth is that Trump has a long history of using foreign and undocumented labor, without much regard for the American workers he says are displaced by immigrant labor and sometimes without evident concern for the law. Let’s run through some of his history:

  • Trump regularly hires foreign workers for jobs as housekeepers and cooks at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. While the law requires an employer to first make an effort to find employees in the United States before filing a request to hire foreign workers, Mar-a-Lago accomplishes this by complying with the letter of the law but in a manner seemingly designed make sure it gets no American applicants: by placing two small ads deep inside the Palm Beach Post to which an applicant may reply only via mail or fax — not online, not by phone and not in person.
  • According to an investigation by Mother Jones, Trump’s modeling agency, Trump Model Management, brought foreign models to the United States to work, despite the fact that they were in the country on tourist visas, a violation of the law. “Two of the former Trump models said Trump’s agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live.” They were crammed into small apartments for which the agency charged them exorbitant rent and had other expenses deducted from their fees, leaving them with little income and the constant knowledge that they could be sent out of the country at any moment. “It is like modern-day slavery,” said one model.
  • Trump Tower was built in part by undocumented Polish workers who sued Trump to get wages they said they were owed. "We worked in horrid, terrible conditions,'' said one. ''We were frightened illegal immigrants and did not know enough about our rights.''

It’s hard to know how much Trump knew at the time he was employing all of these undocumented immigrants; he tends to plead ignorance. But we certainly see a pattern of a man who wants things done cheaply and isn’t too concerned about the rules.

So will Trump's supporters, the ones who chant "Build the wall!" at his rallies and thrill to every attack he makes on immigrants, be unsettled by any of this?

Of course not. With the infinite capacity for rationalization they’ve already demonstrated, they’ll say it all just proves what a shrewd businessman Trump is. And besides, their anger isn’t directed at the employers who utilize (or exploit) undocumented labor, it’s at the immigrants themselves. That’s who Trump has urged them to hate, and there is not a thing they could learn about him that would change that.

President Trump claimed during a Nov. 2 rally that Democrats want the migrant caravan to "fill" the country with undocumented immigrants. (Video: The Washington Post)

Read more:

Catherine Rampell: Three reasons Trump’s new immigration rule should make your blood boil

Max Boot: I was a refugee. I know Trump is wrong.

Dana Milbank: When a Trump supporter’s wife is deported

The Post’s View: America needs more workers. Trump’s war on immigration won’t help.