Aug. 9, 2019 – In the aftermath of the Mississippi family separation raids, a key question emerges: why is ICE arresting the immigrant workers and ripping their families apart but doing nothing to hold their employers accountable? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that as an employer, the boss of ICE and the boss of the Trump Organization is more interested in demonizing Latino immigrants than in going after fellow billionaires who take advantage of them.
Angela Stuesse explains in the Washington Post how employers in the South recruited undocumented immigrant laborers to undercut African-American labor organizing. After initially recruiting immigrant workers from Florida, the poultry plants paid their increasingly Latino workforce a bounty for bringing in new workers. She also explains why:
With the threat of family separation, detention and deportation hanging over people’s heads, immigrant workers are less likely to organize and less likely to speak out against poor conditions — and employers are more likely to take advantage of them. This ripples through the economy, depressing wages for U.S.-born workers, as well. The mounting threat of deportation and rising xenophobia help keep workers compliant, serving owners’ interests and consumers’ pocketbooks — but harming the people who prepare our food.
Sound familiar? If so, it’s because Trump and his organization have long relied on exploitable undocumented workers to build his clubs and maintain his properties. Here are just some of the recent stories from the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Daily Beast regarding Trump’s hiring and exploitation of undocumented workers: Trump National Golf Club West Chester; Trump National Golf Club Mar-A-Lago; Trump National Golf Club Colts Neck; and Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.
In fact, similar to the pipeline of undocumented workers recruited by Mississippi plant owners, the Trump organization recruited undocumented employees from Costa Rica. As the Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow, Nick Miroff, and David Fahrenthold reported in February:
Soon after Trump broke ground at Bedminster in 2002 with a golden shovel, this village emerged as a wellspring of low-paid labor for the private club, which charges tens of thousands of dollars to join. Over the years, dozens of workers from Costa Rica went north to fill jobs as groundskeepers, housekeepers and dishwashers at Bedminster…
The media reports that the New York and the New Jersey Attorneys General’s offices are looking into the pattern and practice of illegality and abuse. Not surprisingly, no such investigation is happening at the federal level. In fact, Trump commuted the only employer of late to be convicted and incarcerated after a mass immigration raid. It seems this administration operates from the theory that poor, exploited, hardworking immigrants are the threat, while American employers who break the law, exploit immigrant workers, undercut native-born workers and gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding competitors, are not.
Just today, the Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow and David Fahrenthold revealed yet another front in the Trump Organization pattern and practice of illegality and abuse – the mobile construction crew:
For nearly two decades, the Trump Organization has relied on a roving crew of Latin American employees to build fountains and waterfalls, sidewalks and rock walls at the company’s winery and its golf courses from New York to Florida.
…President Trump ‘doesn’t want undocumented people in the country,’ said one worker, Jorge Castro, a 55-year-old immigrant from Ecuador without legal status who left the company in April after nine years. ‘But at his properties, he still has them.’
The hiring practices of the little-known Trump business unit is the latest example of the chasm between the president’s derisive rhetoric about immigrants and his company’s long-standing reliance on workers who cross the border illegally.
Another immigrant who worked for the Trump construction crew, Edmundo Morocho, said he was told by a Trump supervisor to buy fake identity documents on a New York street corner. He said he once hid in the woods of a Trump golf course to avoid being seen by visiting labor union officials.
…By employing workers without legal status, the Trump Organization has an advantage over its competitors, particularly at a time when the economy is strong and the labor market tight, according to industry officials. Undocumented employees are less likely to risk changing jobs and less likely to complain if treated poorly.
Donald Trump is not only the Divider-in-Chief, he’s the Exploiter-in-Chief. The administration’s approach to the Mississippi poultry plants embodies the Trump approach perfectly: find undocumented workers who will work hard, work for less, and are unlikely to demand overtime pay or benefits or leave; cheat them and profit off of them for years; and, when in trouble, dehumanize and discard the immigrant workers while claiming innocence.
Americans need to remember: at Trump properties and at Mississippi poultry plants, the undocumented workers didn’t hire themselves; their employers did. And they did so because they could take advantage of the immigrant workers. Instead of criminalizing hard working immigrants, we should be putting them on a path to legal status. And instead of giving unscrupulous employers a pass, we should combine the legalization of undocumented workers with a crackdown on the labor abuses of exploitative employers.
Tonight Trump will travel to his club in Bedminster, New Jersey. While he spends the weekend plotting new ways to hold onto power by dehumanizing Latinos and immigrants, we should remember he will be staying in a mansion built and maintained by undocumented immigrants. This reality captures the beating heart of Trump and Trumpism – racism and xenophobia for his core supporters, and plutocratic privilege and impunity for the Trumps and their rich friends.