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Trump golf courses may have employed hundreds of undocumented workers, says lawyer

Trump golf courses may have employed hundreds of undocumented workers, says lawyer
Victorina Morales from Guatemala, speaks during an interview in Upper Manhattan, New York, USA, 14 December 2018. Victorina allegedly worked undocumented for Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. She continues to live in the US as an undocumented immigrant and she is looking for asylum. [Photo: Alba Vigaray/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock]

The lawyer representing undocumented immigrants who worked at two of President Trump’s golf courses says he’s been contacted by at least 22 more such employees at more of Trump’s golf courses across the country. And those workers say there are hundreds of undocumented immigrants in total who have worked at Trump golf courses, according to Anibal Romero. He’s the lawyer who made headlines in December when two of his clients claimed they were hired as housekeepers at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, after presenting fake Social Security numbers and green cards.

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They also alleged that they were subjected to abuse, called racial epithets, and threatened with deportation. Since then, more workers have come forward and made similar claims and suffered the consequences—in total, 18 undocumented workers have been fired by the Trump Organization over the last two months.

Since those stories were published, at least 22 undocumented workers have told Romero about their experience at Trump golf courses, where “no one checked their papers or they knew damn well [about their status] because they cleared false papers,” Romero told Fast Company, adding that they didn’t receive any health benefits.

Some of them also claim that they were physically assaulted by management at the courses, according to Romero, who says he’s in touch with government authorities in New York and New Jersey investigating these claims.

He believes his clients represent just the tip of the iceberg, since there are likely hundreds more such undocumented workers at Trump golf courses. And Romero thinks it could be the start of a movement that could transform the immigration debate. “This is just the beginning,” he says, noting the extensive use of undocumented landscapers and laborers at the thousands of golf courses across the country, not to mention the hotels and restaurants and construction sites and other workplaces where undocumented workers are essential employees.

“Let’s legalize them,” he adds. “Right now, for many of these workers, whether it’s seasonal or year-round, it’s like indentured servitude. They get no benefits, they’re mistreated, and they barely earn enough to feed their families.”

The irony is not lost on Romero and his clients that the undocumented employees of the company owned by the president—who were motivated to come out of the shadows due to the president’s harsh crackdown on immigration—could also end up transforming the debate on the issue and help spur a path to citizenship for many undocumented workers.

His clients share that hope: “I’m asking God that please I want our voices heard,” Victorina Morales, a 45-year-old immigrant from Guatemala who worked for more than five years as a housekeeper at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster and is attending tonight’s State of the Union speech, tells Fast Company. “We hope that better things are coming in the future, for us and for the 11 million who are in this country fighting to put food on the table and to make a living.”

And she’s hoping her old boss can turn into an ally: “If he is a person who listens—obviously he knows that there are so many people undocumented working for him—and our stories are going to touch his heart, hopefully he will be able to help us. There are so many of us in the shadows, and that’s why no one speaks.”

In a statement, a Trump Organization spokesperson said:

We are very proud of our diverse workforce. Our associates mean everything to us and are the heart and soul of our company. We also take our obligations as an employer seriously and regularly conduct audits to insure full and complete compliance with all legal requirements. Last month the press reported on two individuals who had allegedly falsified documents to gain employment at one of our golf courses. Upon learning of these claims, we immediately initiated a comprehensive review of employee eligibility across all of our properties. As a result of this review and to ensure our absolute compliance with the law, any employee who provided falsified documents was immediately terminated. Obviously, terminating one’s employment is never something we wish to do.  Many of our employees have been with us for years and are an extension of our family. Still, after being confronted with this issue, we had no choice. To prevent this from happening again, we will soon be instituting E-Verify at all applicable properties and will continue to take swift and appropriate action where necessary.

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