Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Trump’s Fortune is Built on Undocumented Immigrant Labor (Exhibits 1 & 2) - So Why's He Suddenly So Mad About Them?

Americans deserve a more intellectually honest discussion about our immigration policies.  But Trump isn't the guy we want leading it.

200 undocumented Polish immigrants helped demo the building Trump replaced with Trump Tower / Photo: Brad CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump made most of his fortune in industries that employ substantial numbers of undocumented workers: real estate development, commercial real estate management, golf courses, and hotels/resorts.  So it seems likely that he’s made millions of dollars with the help of cheap labor from unauthorized immigrants. 

So far, a few stories have surfaced involving cases of Trump knowingly, if indirectly, employing unauthorized workers.  His employment of 200 undocumented Polish workers years ago.  His contemporary use of a number of unauthorized workers to build his new DC hotel.  More such stories seem certain to come.

Many of us want a more intellectually honest discussion of U.S. immigration policy.  But Trump doesn't genuinely care about reform - he's just saying whatever he thinks will get attention in the GOP field.  How do we know? Because his own use of undocumented labor tells us what he really thinks: illegally employing undocumented workers is a-okay by Trump if it makes Trump money.

Exhibit 1:  Donald Trump knowingly employed 200 undocumented Polish immigrants

This 1990 New York Times story covered his implausible claims in court that he was unaware his company employed over 200 unauthorized Polish immigrants in 1980 to demolish the building he replaced with Trump Tower.  This 1998 NYT story explores the case in greater detail.  And Michael Daly recently gave a great overview of the case and its procedural twists and turns over the course of twenty - yes, 20 - years.  Spoiler alert: Trump lost because he knew or should have known that many of the sub’s personnel were unauthorized workers.

Exhibit 2:  Unauthorized workers have helped build the new Trump Hotel in Washington, DC  
The Washington Post told the story on July 7:

For weeks, dozens of construction workers from Latin America have streamed onto the site of the Old Post Office Pavilion in downtown Washington and taken pride in their work building one of the city’s newest luxury hotels …
[A] Trump company may be relying on some undocumented workers to finish the $200 million hotel, which will sit five blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to several who work there. ...
“The majority of us are Hispanics, many who came illegally,” [mason Ivan] Arellano said in Spanish.  “And we’re all here working very hard to build a better life for our families.”
Interviews with about 15 laborers helping renovate the Old Post Office Pavilion revealed that many of them had crossed the U.S-Mexico border illegally before they eventually settled in the Washington region to build new lives.
Several of the men … have earned … legal status through immigration programs targeting Central Americans fleeing civil wars or natural disasters.  Others [working in the DC Trump hotel] quietly acknowledged that they remain in the country illegally.

Again, this story came out almost two months ago.  Despite having seen and heard a LOT of coverage of the Trump campaign in the meantime, I first heard about it while finally watching the August 17 episode of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore a few days ago. 

CNN produced its own DC hotel story the day the Post story broke, noting that they interviewed four workers “of Hispanic descent … none would say whether they legally resided in the U.S.”  The next day, Anderson Cooper asked Trump about this hypocrisy, citing both the Post story and the undocumented Polish workers case.  Trump dismissed Cooper’s questions as “pathetic.”  And little has been heard about the matter since.

Trump’s knowing profiteering from illegal immigration should be mentioned every time he rails against it.  The Washington Post story, or the CNN story, or the Anderson Cooper interview, or even the 1990 or the 1998 New York Times stories, should be mentioned and linked to.  Every.  Single.  Time.  

The first GOP debate panel’s failure to ask Donald Trump about his record of using undocumented labor bordered on journalistic malpractice.  Jake Tapper and Hugh Hewitt need to make sure the questions get asked on September 16.  If you’d like to urge them to ask Trump about his employment of undocumented workers, click on their name and send ‘em a tweet with hashtag #TrumpsImmigrants 

In the Washington Post and CNN stories, the Trump organization claimed "responsibility" for ensuring workers' legal status lies solely with his contractor, Land Lease, and the subs they employ.  As they’re well aware in the light of the Polish worker case, that's baloney.  More recently, Walmart was socked with $11 million in fines for contracting with custodial service providers that relied significantly on undocumented labor.  Just last year, Grand America Hotels & Resorts settled a similar case for $2 million.  This fairly plain-English review of relevant law by two leading business immigration lawyers helps explain why many large corporations have stopped playing “don’t ask, don’t tell” with their subcontractors and vendors.  The authors conclude:

Regardless of the government’s enforcement strategies and practices in the coming years, corporate procurement officers will most likely continue to insist that service providers take pains to … achieve maximum adherence to the dictates of U.S. immigration law.

The Trump organization didn’t do so.

Trump doesn’t have plausible deniability on this, no matter how hard his underlings try to make that case.  If Donald Trump were as concerned about illegal immigration as he claims, he would’ve ensured long ago that his business wasn’t helping attract unauthorized workers into the U.S.  


Trump’s Outrage About Illegal Immigration is a Big Fat Act

Donald Trump seems to have tapped into many Americans’ anxiety about our country’s decades-long failure to adequately control illegal immigration.  I share some of those concerns, plenty of which are valid and not, as some immigrant advocates assume, merely the product of racism or xenophobia.   

But Donald Trump seems to think Americans concerned
about immigration are all racist xenophobes.  He keeps playing to that demographic by resorting to racist propaganda tactics.  Tactics like yesterday’s fear-mongering ad featuring the mug shots of three murderers who were here illegally.  Tactics like making horrible, false, sweeping generalizations about entire populations of people.  And tactics such as failing for at least two days to explicitly condemn a couple of "passionate" supporters' brutal attack on a Hispanic homeless man.

Let’s get real – Donald Trump isn’t really concerned about illegal immigration.  Trump's fine with unauthorized labor, as long as he's the one making a buck off of it.  He doesn't even care about the Republican Party or its voters.  Trump publicly resigned the GOP in 1999 in the midst of exploring the possibility of running as a Reform Party candidate, because he believed "the Republicans are just too crazy right."

Trump doesn't care about anybody but himself.  He has shown over, and over, and over again that he has little to no real principles and will say anything to win.  Right now, Donald Trump is simply, blatantly hate-mongering because he thinks that's his path to victory.  And as long as he wants to be President, Trump will blow up this whole damn country if he thinks that's how to win.

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