Trump resorts rejected dozens of U.S. workers so they could hire low-wage foreign workers

At least 57 U.S. workers were turned away at Trump resorts, as company applied to hire hundreds of foreigners

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published April 26, 2019 4:20PM (EDT)

President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump’s resorts rejected dozens of American applicants and applied to hire hundreds of foreign guest workers instead, according to government records obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Trump’s reliance on foreign workers is no secret. He repeatedly said during the 2016 campaign that he has to hire seasonal guest workers because “you can’t get help” from Americans living in the area. But Labor Department records show that at least 58 U.S. citizens or legal residents applied for seasonal jobs as cooks, servers and housekeepers at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach and other properties between 2014 and 2018. Only one of them appears to have been hired -- a cook earning $13.01 per hour in 2015.

Instead, the Trump Organization applied to bring in more than 375 low-wage workers on seasonal H-2 visas, which the Labor Department approved, BuzzFeed News reports.

Even after launching his campaign on the promise to help American workers whose jobs he claimed were being taken by immigrants, Trump’s businesses have continued to seek approval to bring in more foreign workers. Businesses owned or licensed by Trump have applied to bring in more than 600 foreign guest workers since Trump’s campaign launched in June 2015.

The Labor Department requires companies to seek local job applicants in publicly available listings and government-run job requirement centers for several months before the job begins before they are allowed to request foreign guest workers. Trump’s company appears to have complied with the requirements, even though they turned away dozens of American applicants, and repeatedly told the Labor Department that “there are not enough US workers to consider and hire.”

The Trump properties told the Labor Department in various applications that the American candidates were “not interested” or did “not meet the minimum experience requirement.” In seven of the applications, the properties said that not one U.S. worker had applied.

Despite these claims, the Trump Organization appears to have actively discouraged U.S. workers from applying in order to be able to seek more foreign workers, whom BuzzFeed noted were likely to be seen by employers as more compliant and less likely to quit or complain about conditions.

The job listings posted by Trump’s properties required applicants to “be available to work split-shifts, nights, weekends & holidays” for shifts beginning as early as 7 a.m. and ending as late as 11 p.m., “7 days per week.” The listings required housekeeper applicants to have a high school diploma, have three months experience in a “luxury hospitality setting,” and be “articulate in English” for a $10.68 per hour job, even the same requirements were not made when seeking guest workers. A 2011 Palm Beach Post report also noted that Mar-a-Lago failed to share listings for 90 open positions with a local nonprofit that helps unemployed U.S. workers find jobs.

According to Labor Department records, the agency audited Mar-a-Lago’s use of the H-2 visa program in 2014 and found that it “failed to show it complied” with regulations after finding that the properties used fewer visas than it requested and failed to report guest workers who left their jobs early. No penalties were imposed despite the finding.

The reliance on foreign guest workers at the expense of American workers may be hypocritical, but is certainly legal. The Trump Organization’s use of undocumented workers is another story.

At least three Trump properties began firing waves of undocumented workers earlier this year after several of the workers came forward to allege that Trump’s golf resorts actively sought to hire undocumented workers. An attorney for five undocumented workers who were employed by Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club said last year that supervisors provided at least some workers with fraudulent green cards and Social Security numbers that he has since turned over to the FBI and state investigators.

A group of House Democrats called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to investigate the “disturbing allegations” that the Trump Organization “routinely and knowingly hired undocumented immigrants.”

“Some of these brave workers have now decided to come forward and detail an elaborate ploy by the Trump Organization to systematically procure cheap immigrant labor and employ undocumented immigrants — despite knowing that the documents they provided were false,” the letter from the lawmakers said. “In addition to this alleged criminal enterprise, the workers describe a culture of coercion, mistreatment, and instances of physical abuse.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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