The Trump Organization employed immigrants in the country illegally at one of its New Jersey golf clubs, according to a lawyer representing one former and one current employee.
Anibal Romero told NPR that his two clients worked using falsified papers at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey and that he knows of other employees continuing to work at the club without legal documentation.
A report published Thursday in The New York Times first detailed the employment history of Romero's clients, two women who worked in close proximity to Trump both before and after he was elected president. The president has visited the Bedminster club more than 70 times since taking office.
One of the women continues to live in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant. The other, who is from Costa Rica, has become a legal permanent resident since quitting her job at Bedminster. She worked at the property from 2010 to 2013 and told the Times she washed and ironed Trump's underwear, shirts and other personal effects.
The report underscores a discrepancy between the president's harsh rhetoric against immigrants — both here illegally and legally — and the apparent hiring practices of his own company. Trump sent thousands of troops to America's border with Mexico ahead of the midterm elections, and there has recently been a spike in arrests there. It's estimated that nearly 8 million undocumented immigrants currently work in the United States.
Although Trump's 2016 campaign refrain, "America First," was intended in part to signal a commitment to American workers, the Trump Organization has hired both documented and undocumented foreign workers in the past. Undocumented Polish immigrants worked at the construction site of Donald Trump's iconic Trump Tower in New York City between 1979 and 1980. And the president's company has used H-2B visas to bring in employees for his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
The New York Times report says that at least two supervisors at the Bedminster club were aware of the women's immigration status.
A statement provided to NPR by the Trump Organization said: "We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices. If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately."
Romero told NPR that the woman still in the country illegally had positive impressions of Trump from his visits to the club before his election. In an interview with the Times, she recalled a $50 tip he gave her after he praised Guatemalans' work ethic, "I told myself, 'God bless him.' I thought, he's a good person."
But Romero told NPR that his client's supervisor became hostile after Trump took office.
The lawyer also sent NPR a statement describing the allegations:
[M]y clients and others were repeatedly subjected to abuse, called racial epithets and threatened with deportation. Ironically, the threats often came from the same supervisor who had employed them despite knowing their undocumented status and even provided them with forged documents.
Undocumented immigrants regularly find themselves trapped in unfair or dangerous workplaces where complaining about their conditions or treatment would mean calling attention to their lack of legal status.
Romero said that his undocumented client approached him earlier this year — after hearing he was representing the other employee — and explained she wanted to find a way to end her alleged physical and verbal abuse at the golf club.
"Enough is enough," Romero said she expressed to him back then. "[I]t's time to come out of the shadows and let people understand that we work hard in America and we are not criminals, we are good people who work hard."
As of Friday afternoon, he says she is still on the payroll of the Trump Organization but does not plan to return to work.