Saturday, February 9, 2019

Trump's pipeline of illegal workers

Golden shovel
Donald Trump wields a golden shovel
at the 2002 groundbreaking of
Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.

Washington Post reporters Joshua Partlow, Nick Miroff and (Pulitzer Prize winner) David A. Fahrenthold expose the hiring practices of the Trump Organization in ‘My whole town practically lived there’: From Costa Rica to New Jersey, a pipeline of illegal workers for Trump goes back years.

Fake papers were easy to come by, papers that got the Costa Rican workers jobs at the Bedminster Golf Resort. Managers knew about it, looked the other way, and actively concealed the practices.

Representative excerpts from the very long report follow.

At his home on the misty slope of Costa Rica’s tallest mountain, Dario Angulo keeps a set of photographs from the years he tended the rolling fairways and clipped greens of a faraway American golf resort.

Angulo learned to drive backhoes and bulldozers, carving water hazards and tee boxes out of former horse pastures in Bedminster, N.J., where a famous New Yorker was building a world-class course. Angulo earned $8 an hour, a fraction of what a state-licensed heavy equipment operator would make, with no benefits or overtime pay. But he stayed seven years on the grounds crew, saving enough for a small piece of land and some cattle back home.

Now the 34-year-old lives with his wife and daughters in a sturdy house built by “Trump money,” as he put it, with a porch to watch the sun go down.

It’s a common story in this small town.

Other former employees of President Trump’s company live nearby: men who once raked the sand traps and pushed mowers through thick heat on Trump’s prized golf property — the “Summer White House,” as aides have called it — where his daughter Ivanka got married and where he wants to build a family cemetery.

“Many of us helped him get what he has today,” Angulo said. “This golf course was built by illegals.”

The company’s recent purge of unauthorized workers from at least five Trump properties contributes to mounting evidence that the president benefited for years from the work of illegal laborers he now vilifies.

As president,[Trump] has repeatedly called for a crackdown on illegal immigration.

“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration,” Trump said during his State of the Union address Tuesday. “Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate — it is cruel.”

But the lax hiring practices at Bedminster and other Trump properties described by former employees — including some who said their supervisors discussed their fake documents — stand in sharp contrast with Trump’s rhetoric.

Trump was notorious for stiffing his contractors. So it is not surprising that he profited from the willingness of illegal laborers to do hard work for a fraction of prevailing wages.

Some of the first Costa Ricans hired to build Trump National Golf Club Bedminster — Zuñiga, Angulo, and their Santa Teresa neighbor Abel Mora, among others — remember it as punishing work. They labored from dawn until late evening, seven days a week, raking and hauling mountains of earth moved by heavy machinery and shaping it into golf holes.

It was rake, rake, rake, the whole day,” Zuñiga said.

There was also seeding, watering, mowing, building the sand traps and driving bulldozers, mini-excavators and loaders — all while they earned about $10 an hour or less, they said.

Around that time, a licensed heavy equipment operator in central New Jersey would have received an average of $51 to $55 per hour in wages and benefits, according to union officials at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 in the nearby town of Springfield.

Trump’s hiring practices continued after Bedminster had been constructed and while it open and operating. For example:

… Ana Vasquez, an immigrant from El Salvador who bused tables in the club’s restaurant, went to neighboring Plainfield to buy her phony Social Security card alias, “Yohana Pineda.”

Before going to her interview, Vasquez asked a friend if the club would hire people who used fake documents.

“I thought, ‘This is a place with a very famous owner,’ ” she recalled. “My friend said there was nothing to worry about. She told me, ‘They don’t care.’ ”

But “they” were hands-on.

"People think of Trump as being just a face, just a brand,” Eric Trump said in a 2011 promotional video about the company’s golf courses. “We design every single tee, every fairway. . . . We pick the carpets. We pick the chandeliers. There is not one element of these clubhouses which we don’t know about it. You name it — we’re involved.”

Trump’s election did not bring any added scrutiny to his workers’ immigration status, former employees said. … Emma Torres, a housekeeper from Ecuador, said superiors kept her name and those of other workers without legal status off a list of people to be vetted by the Secret Service before a Trump visit to the club in 2016.

The workers were not treated well according to some of the reports.

Franklin Mora, who quit after a year on the grounds crew, said that his manager would mock his limited English and spoke harshly to the Hispanic employees. The manager required them to set their mowers at a pace that required them to jog to keep up in a fashion he viewed as humiliating.

“They treated us like slaves,” he said.

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