Trump used illegal immigrant labor at his golf club
CHICAGO — Since President Trump is so fond of giving his political nemeses pet names, allow me to give him one, too: Teflon Don. Nothing sticks to this guy.
He said it himself back in 2016: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
And if he were to say today, “I could employ illegal immigrants even though I say I’m tough on immigration,” his most ardent supporters wouldn’t blink twice.
Hiring undocumented immigrants, of course, has been an unforgivable political sin — it derailed the nominations of two candidates for attorney general in 1993 (Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood), two nominations for labor secretary (Linda Chavez in 2001 and Andrew Puzder in 2017), and a pick for homeland security secretary in 2004 (Bernard Kerik). Today, employing people who are residing in the country illegally would surely torpedo the careers of most incumbents or candidates for office.
But few Trump supporters were rushing to point out the president’s hypocrisy when The New York Times reported last week that unlawfully present immigrants were working on phony employment documents at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Make no mistake about it, if President Obama had done the same thing during his tenure, he would have been run out of the White House on a rail by an angry mob.
Yet when Trump does anything that directly undermines his campaign promises, his base always seems to find a way to turn it around.
“No good deed goes unpunished, even when the beneficiary is in the country illegally,” wrote Eddie Scarry, a conservative opinion writer for The Washington Examiner, in reference to reports that the housekeepers who came forward about working with fake documents said Trump had tipped them generously.
Scarry didn’t grapple with the threatening and demeaning comments that Victorina Morales said she faced from her immediate supervisors because they knew she was working illegally.
In Scarry’s assessment, the salient fact was that a prominent publication had the gall to elevate the undocumented women’s stories, not the fact that Trump’s golf club is allegedly hiring unlawfully present immigrants for jobs that should, in Trump’s stated vision of the U.S. workforce, go to lawful permanent residents and native-born workers.
No mention at all of the Times’ most damning revelation — that though president Trump has, in the past, bragged about using E-Verify (the electronic system that checks potential employees’ identity against the databases of the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security’s databases to weed out unauthorized workers at his work sites and properties), his staff knowingly hired undocumented workers.
According to the Times, an online list of employers who are registered to use the E-Verify system includes Mr. Trump’s golf club in North Carolina — a state where E-Verify is required — but the Bedminster club in New Jersey, which is not required to do the federal check, doesn’t appear.
According to Morales and another worker, Sandra Diaz, supervisors wielded their power by simultaneously helping employees obtain fake work documentation from other employees (sometimes even helping to pay for the false documents) so they could stay on the job, and by calling them “donkeys,” and “stupid illegal immigrants” with less intelligence than a dog. There were also alleged threats of deportation and, sometimes, physical force.
Morales took major risks to come forward but did so to stick up for others suffering in silence.
“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way [Trump] talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” Morales told the Times. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”
That humiliation started back when Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015 by referring to immigrants south of the border as criminals and rapists.
Well, you have to hand it to him — when Trump made those comments, he also said of the immigrants that, “some, I assume, are good people.”
That’s surely how he thought of Morales, who was given both a certificate of outstanding service from the club and a special pin in the shape of an American flag bearing a Secret Service logo.
If this latest uncovering of the opportunistic, two-faced nature of our president teaches us anything, it’s that he’s right — in his most passionate supporters’ eyes, he can do no wrong. And no amount of evidence to the contrary will ever sway them to view him as the hypocrite everyone else sees.
Esther Cepeda’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda.