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The Trump Organization Is Cracking Down On Undocumented Workers


Now an update to a story we brought you last week. I spoke with an undocumented immigrant named Victorina Morales. She used to work as a housekeeper at a Trump golf club in New Jersey. She described how supervisors and staff at the club helped her get fraudulent papers.


VICTORINA MORALES: (Through interpreter) They knew that I didn't have documents. And the supervisor, Jorge, took my ID photo in the laundry room, and a cousin of his took me to a place to get fake documents. He told me that I had to pay for them. And I said, sorry, but I don't have money to pay for that. He told me not to worry about it, that he would cover it and I could pay it back.

SHAPIRO: She first told her story publicly in The New York Times in December, and by the time I spoke with her last week, the Trump Organization had begun to crack down more widely on undocumented workers. Attorney Anibal Romero told me he's representing about a dozen immigrants who were recently fired from two different Trump properties.


ANIBAL ROMERO: The workers are the victims. The employers recruited them, brought them into the organization, told them to go purchase fraudulent documents. It is not illegal to work in the United States, but it is illegal when you knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

SHAPIRO: Now The Washington Post reports that the purge of undocumented workers from Trump properties has spread. Reporter David Fahrenthold is here with the latest. Hi there.


SHAPIRO: How widespread is this now? What are the latest numbers that you have?

FAHRENTHOLD: What we know so far is that there have been undocumented workers fired from five different Trump golf clubs all in New York, New York state and New Jersey. And that's a total of 18 fired. That may not sound that much, but remember golf courses in the wintertime are operating on a pretty skeleton staff.

SHAPIRO: What kind of jobs did these people do? How long did they work there?

FAHRENTHOLD: Some of them had worked there for 18 years, 15 years. It's a mixture of folks who worked in landscaping, folks who worked in maintenance. And the female workers have generally been housekeeping employees.

SHAPIRO: I understand you spoke with Eric Trump, the president's son who helps run the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization. Tell us about that conversation you had.

FAHRENTHOLD: He and I went back and forth a couple of days ago about this. And so we learned from him about a couple of clubs where we didn't know there'd been firings - Pine Hill, the golf course Trump has outside Philadelphia; Colts Neck, his golf course near the Jersey Shore plus three we already knew about in New York and New Jersey.

SHAPIRO: Still, this is a small fraction of the total properties that the Trump organization runs in the United States. Do you expect this to spread still further?

FAHRENTHOLD: It's really hard to know. So the Trump Organization has said that they are now doing a company-wide purge, a company-wide review of these employees' documents. The documents that they're reviewing and that they're using as the basis for firing these folks - these are documents that they gave when they were hired.

What's unclear to me now is how many of them were doing any kind of extra immigration checks before this. Only a few of these properties were enrolled in E-Verify, the federal government's sort of voluntary extra-check system for employers who want to check their employees an extra step. And a few others - Eric Trump says a few; he won't specify the number - were using a third-party sort of HR vendor to do the same thing. But I don't really know the universe of clubs that weren't really checking immigration before, so it's hard for me to know how many more will fire people now.

SHAPIRO: I want to ask about a phrase you use in your latest story on the subject. You say the Trump Organization previously had paid little attention to their immigration status. We just heard Victorina Morales describe supervisors actively helping her procure fake documents. So at least in her case, it seems they paid a lot of attention to her immigration status. Is it your sense that the Trump Organization more often turned a blind eye or actively worked to keep undocumented employees on the payroll?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, we've heard from workers both indications. There are some people who just said, look; I gave them a document 15 years ago and - you know, that I bought on the street in Queens, and they took it and didn't ask any questions and that they came to the Trump golf course sort of with the understanding that this was a place that didn't ask questions.

But as you said, there have been a few other examples where the Trump Organization supervisor - so not Eric Trump personally but the people who worked for him down at the golf club and supervise these workers - where those people would either - the workers have said they either helped them procure documents - in one case at the Trump Westchester Golf Club north of New York City, there was a guy who said, look; I brought them a fake document, and the supervisor said, this is a bad fake; go get a better one. And he went to Queens, came back and brought another fake. And the person said, no, this fake is still not good enough; go get a better fake. Finally he comes back from Queens with a third fake document, and the supervisor at Trump Westchester says, OK, this fake is good enough. All those things seem to indicate a pretty high level of awareness.

SHAPIRO: David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, thank you for sharing your reporting with us.

FAHRENTHOLD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.