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Former Trump club employee says management kept her off Secret Service screening list because she is undocumented

In the last month, several former employees of Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J., have said that they were hired despite their lack of legal immigration status. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

A former kitchen employee at one of President Trump’s golf clubs in New Jersey said her superiors kept her name and those of other undocumented workers off a list of people to be vetted by the Secret Service before a Trump visit to the club in 2016.

Emma Torres, 43, an immigrant from Ecuador, said that she informed a human resources official at the club that she did not have papers to live legally in the United States when she was asked to submit her information for a clearance check. She said the names of undocumented workers were then excised from a list turned over to the Secret Service.

Torres could not recall the name of the person who modified the list or the exact date of the incident. But she said she continued in her job at the club and was later working in the kitchen when Trump visited the club under Secret Service protection.

Torres’s account, first reported by the New York Times, suggests that the presence of undocumented workers at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., was known by at least some managers. Last month, several women went public to say that they worked at the club without legal immigration status.

Trump Organization officials and White House officials declined to comment.

The presence of undocumented workers at one of the president’s signature golf clubs stands in sharp juxtaposition to his staunch rhetoric against illegal immigration. Since launching his White House bid, Trump has vowed to build a border wall with Mexico to keep out undocumented migrants, accusing them of bringing drugs and crime into the country. His demand for more than $5 billion to build the wall has led to the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government.

During his presidential campaign, Trump touted his company’s hiring practices. In the fall of 2016, when he opened a new Trump hotel in Washington, he told the assembled audience: “We didn’t have one illegal immigrant on the job. Everybody knows it.”

Anibal Romero, a Newark-based immigration attorney, said he now represents five immigrants who say they had worked at Trump’s Bedminster club without legal status in recent years. Investigators with the FBI and the New Jersey attorney general’s office have collected employment documents on his clients in recent months, he said, an indication that the agencies may be scrutinizing the hiring practices of the president’s club.

FBI, New Jersey investigators gathered evidence of undocumented immigrants who say they worked at Trump golf course, lawyer says

Meanwhile, Torres’s experience and that of another worker suggest that the Secret Service may not have had a full picture of who was in proximity to Trump and his guests when they visited the Bedminster club.

Victorina Morales, 45, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who said she worked as a housekeeper in a different part of the club cleaning Trump’s villa, said Secret Service agents gave her a pin to wear every time Trump visited.

“I had to wear the pin to get into the golf club,” Morales said in an interview Thursday.

Her supervisor asked her to sign her name to receive a pin, but Morales said she explained that she did not know how to write, so she didn’t sign. “I told them I couldn’t write, so they let me go at that,” she said.

Morales said she recalls one pin having an American flag and another with a design that she did not recall.

Secret Service spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan said a Secret Service pin bearing the U.S. flag is a novelty item and “is not used by the Secret Service as a means of identification, verification or access control.” She declined to discuss what kind of pins agents may have provided Morales.

Official pins indicating someone has permission to enter secure areas have other designs; they are provided to venue staffers by the Secret Service only after a background check, according to former officials.

It is unclear whether Morales received such a screening. She said she did not recall being asked to submit her information in advance but said she assumed her supervisor provided it.

“If that person got a pin without being screened, that’s a serious violation of the protocol,” according to a person familiar with the Secret Service screening process who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Milhoan said the agency “does not comment on our protective operations, including the administration of our name-check program.” She declined to say whether officials ever screened Morales or Torres for a Trump visit to the Bedminster club.

The revelations about undocumented workers at Bedminster surfaced publicly in the Times last month, when Morales and Sandra Diaz, a 46-year-old Costa Rican native, said they were hired by the New Jersey club despite their lack of legal immigration status.

Morales said Thursday that she told a Bedminster supervisor when she applied for the housekeeping job in 2013 that she did not have proper immigration papers to work legally in the United States. She recalled being told: “It’s no problem here. You don’t need papers.”

“They knew I didn’t have good papers,” said Morales, who worked at the club until last month. Romero, her attorney, provided The Washington Post with payroll and tax documents from recent years that list her employment at the Bedminster golf course.

Trump Organization officials have repeatedly declined to address the specific allegations by the workers. Last month, spokeswoman Amanda Miller said in a statement: “We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices. If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately.”

A person close to the organization said that an internal investigation of claims made by former workers at Bedminster produced no credible information to support a range of allegations they made, including that managers were aware of employees without legal status.

Torres said she began working at the club in early 2015 doing housekeeping and then moved to the kitchen staff, first as a dishwasher and later in food preparation, earning $14.50 per hour. She said she got the job with a fake Social Security number.

Morales said she worked with Torres in housekeeping and said she recalled her transferring to the kitchen staff.

Trump visited Bedminster at least a half-dozen times during the 2016 campaign, according to news coverage of his travel. Around the time he became the Republican nominee, Torres said, security got tighter at the golf club, particularly when he was visiting.

For presidential candidates under Secret Service protection, the agency seeks to check the backgrounds and criminal records of anyone who will be in proximity to the candidate at events. Agents from a local field office who are preparing for a candidate visit require the management of the venue hosting the visit — whether it is a hotel, a convention center or a golf club — to provide, several days before, the names of all employees who will prepare food, entertain or wait on the candidate.

The Secret Service’s protective intelligence division then runs those names through a national FBI database to determine whether anyone is wanted for a bench warrant or has any history of arrests or convictions for drugs or violent crimes.

At one point, Secret Service agents arrived at the Bedminster club and kitchen supervisors asked all kitchen staffers to put their names, ages and Social Security numbers on a list, Torres said. She said she could not recall exactly when that occurred.

Torres said she and other undocumented employees gave their information but then grew concerned that it would be used to discover their immigration status.

She said she grabbed a golf cart and drove to an administrative office, where she asked a human resources employee to remove her name from the list. When asked why, she recalled, she said: “Because I’m undocumented. I don’t have papers.”

Torres said the human resources official agreed to take her and several other undocumented Hispanics off the list.

“She took a pen and crossed it out,” she said. “She crossed out our names.”

Torres said she was later working at the club on occasions when Trump visited. At times, Secret Service agents who accompanied him were Hispanic, Torres said, and the kitchen staffers would chat with them in Spanish.

Torres said she left her job in Bedminster in 2017 because she felt uncomfortable as a woman in a mostly male kitchen. She said she was also stressed out by the intensity of working during Trump visits, when she would arrive at 8 a.m. but often not leave until late at night. She also said she did not like Trump’s comments about immigrants.

Her experience with Trump personally, she added, was not unpleasant. At one point, she recalled, he shook her hand and told her she was doing a good job, before giving her a $50 tip.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.