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Undocumented Workers Say They Were Fired From Trump Golf Clubs

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Donald Trump has built his presidency on attacking undocumented immigrants. At the same time, his properties have relied on the labor of people who are not in the country legally. After newspapers began reporting on this contradiction, Trump properties started firing those workers. The Washington Post says just 10 days ago, the Trump National Golf Club in New York's Westchester County fired around a dozen people who'd worked there for years.

Victorina Morales tells a similar story. She spent five years as a housekeeper at another Trump golf club in Bedminster, N.J. She's not been back to work since The New York Times reported her claims last month. I spoke with her earlier today, and Morales told me that when she worked at the Bedminster club, a supervisor knew she was undocumented.

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: Her lawyer, Anibal Romero, represents a group of employees from at least two of Trump's golf clubs. I asked him whether he believes that all of Trump's properties rely so heavily on undocumented workers.

ANIBAL ROMERO: When Victorina Morales came to my office in October, she said to me that there were many, many workers at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster who were undocumented, and many of them shared similar stories - that they were recruited, that they were coerced into doing work they didn't want to do, that they were threatened with deportation.

And after Victorina's story came out, I started receiving anonymous calls from people who claimed they have worked for Donald Trump, who told me very similar stories that, you know, management knew that they weren't legal, that they were not - they did not have health benefits. They didn't have pension plans that were offered to other people, that there was a two-tiered system - the documented workers and the undocumented workers.

SHAPIRO: President Trump's son Eric, who helps run the day-to-day operations of the business, gave a statement to The Washington Post where he said, we're making a broad effort to identify any employee who has given false and fraudulent documents to unlawfully gain employment. Where identified, any individual will be terminated immediately. What's wrong with that?

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. It's actually a federal crime, a very serious federal crime. That is why we are asking for a complete and thorough investigation. If Homeland Security were to conduct an investigation and look at business records, I am certain they will find that there has been document fraud, tax fraud, Social Security fraud, health insurance fraud.

SHAPIRO: You're talking about the kind of crackdown that Homeland Security has done on poultry processing plants or convenience stores or other businesses. You'd like to see that kind of an inspection of Trump properties.

ROMERO: I think Homeland Security needs to investigate this to determine who knew what. When did they find out, and why wasn't anything done? And just to be clear, I've already been in contact with the FBI, and I've been in contact with new Jersey attorney general's office and New York state authorities because I believe my clients are victims.

SHAPIRO: There are undocumented immigrants all throughout the U.S. labor force, and this is more noteworthy because it is a Trump property. But isn't what you're describing just a larger symptom of the problem with the U.S. immigration system that has to do with a lot more than just one president, Donald Trump?

ROMERO: Correct, and look; at the end of the day, we all know they're here. Eleven million undocumented immigrants, good people, decent people - they're working. I think it's time for Congress to sit down - Democrats and Republicans - and find the real solution. And it's virtually impossible to remove 11 million people. So this debate is actually laughable. Most of these people want Social Security numbers. They want a work permit so that they can contribute to the Social Security Administration. They want to contribute to the IRS. I think it's time that Congress sits down and finds a real solution to this problem.

SHAPIRO: That was Anibal Romero and Victorina Morales. They were in town to meet with lawmakers. And we reached out to the Trump Organization's corporate offices for comment on this story. As of now, we have not heard back from them. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.