Saturday, July 6, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said he didn't know whether he'd managed to fire all the undocumented workers he'd illegally hired over the years.

Recently, a group of undocumented immigrants who have worked for Trump for years have been trying to get Trump to meet with them. They were recently fired after Trump's businesses belatedly started verifying its workers' documentation, as required by law. The purge came as Trump was shutting down the United States government in order to force Congress to appropriate money for a border wall. 

Trump was asked about it by a reporter today.

Q: Mr. President, are you confident there are no undocumented immigrants working at your Bedminster property or other Trump golf properties? 
TRUMP: Well, that I don’t know because I don’t run it. But I would say this: Probably every club in the United States has that because it seems to be, from what I understand, a way that people did business. 
But we’ve ended — whatever they did, we have a very strict rule that — those rules are very strict. But it seems that every club, practically, in the United States — that’s the way they did business.

Trump's statement was four sentences long. In two of them, he excuses his illegal hiring of undocumented workers because, he claims, everyone does it. (Even if true, that wouldn't make it legal.)

Trump also claims he doesn't know if there are still undocumented workers at his businesses because he's not in charge. Actually, he is. Although he made a show, complete with fake legal documents, of handing over day-to-day authority to his two eldest sons, Trump is still effectively in charge of the Trump Organization, and has still profited from any money saved by illegal hiring practices.

It's possible Trump didn't know about these specific illegal hires, although his insistence that "every club, practically" does implies that he knew he was doing it too. But Trump has been caught many times breaking the labor laws that protect American workers from wage pressures and undocumented workers from exploitation. He was sued by undocumented Polish demolition workers after he used their vulnerable status as an excuse to underpay them, and settled for $1.4 million. Illegally hired workers at his golf clubs were also forced to work off the clock. And his defunct modeling agency, Trump Model Management—whose former employees include the current First Lady—also hired models without work visas.

As for Trump's claim about "very strict rules," if they exist, they've only been enforced very recently, after the massive number of illegal hires at Trump businesses came to light and the Trump Organization was forced to start actually verifying employees' work status.

In fairness, though, not all foreign-born employees of Trump businesses were illegally hired. Trump's businesses routinely make use of special "guest worker" visas. These are only supposed to be issued to companies for work that Americans cannot be hired for. In 2016 and 2017, for example, Trump's businesses used 143 such visas to fill waitstaff, cooks, cleaners, and bartenders at Mar-a-Lago—supposedly because they couldn't find Americans able to do such jobs.

How is this a problem?

  • Presidents are supposed to enforce labor laws that defend Americans' right to work, not break them.
  • "Everyone's doing it" isn't an excuse for criminal behavior.
  • Throwing your children under the bus for things you did isn't exactly inspiring leadership.