President Trump said Friday he did not know if his golf clubs — which employed dozens of undocumented workers in the past — were still employing any today.
Trump’s eldest sons, Don Jr. and Eric, have taken over management of the Trump Organization while their father is president.
But groundskeepers, maids and kitchen staff interviewed by The Washington Post in recent months say they worked without legal documents at Trump’s clubs long before he entered politics and made illegal immigration his core issue.
Standing outside the White House before departing for his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump was asked by reporters about his knowledge of undocumented workers employed there and at his other clubs.
“Well, that I don’t know. Because I don’t run it,” Trump said. “But I would say this, probably every club in the United States has that, because it seems to me, from what I understand, a way that people did business.”
Then he added, “We’ve ended, whatever they did,” and said the rules are now “very strict.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment Friday. The president’s remarks were his most extensive on the issue since it was revealed that his clubs relied on undocumented labor.
The Post has detailed the Trump Organization’s reliance on undocumented labor over many years. Such workers helped build some of his golf courses and staffed jobs in housekeeping, maintenance and food preparation well into Trump’s presidency. The Post has so far interviewed 40 people who worked for Trump without legal status.
Trump Organization officials have said that these workers used fake documents to get their jobs and that the company fired them once they found out.
The company also adopted E-Verify, the government’s voluntary online system for checking if an employee is eligible to work in the United States.
In 2016, Trump told MSNBC host Chris Matthews: “I’m using E-Verify on just about every job. . . . I’m using E-Verify, and I’ll tell you, it works.”
It was not until this year, however, that all of the company’s U.S. golf courses began using the system, which allows employers to check the names and personal information of new hires against records held by the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
This week, many of the fired employees, some of whom worked at Trump businesses for more than a decade, sent the president a letter requesting a meeting and urging him to give them a pathway to citizenship.
“You know many of us and will recall how hard we worked for you, your family and your golf clubs,” they wrote.
Anibal Romero, a New Jersey-based lawyer who represents more than 20 former Trump workers who are undocumented, said his clients believe Trump’s company was aware of their status. These workers have said the company treated them differently than legal employees, offering no health benefits and — in some cases— requiring them to work extra hours unpaid.
“He knew what he was doing,” Romero said of Trump. “He knew that he could have them for cheap labor.”
David A. Fahrenthold contributed to this report.