The Slatest

Donald Trump Hates Immigrant Labor, Except When It Saves Him Money

This man cares about American workers. Just read the hat for proof.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Donald Trump hates illegal immigration. He calls illegal immigrants criminals and rapists. He wants to build a wall to keep illegal immigrants out and deport millions and millions of undocumented immigrants who are already here. “They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money. They’re killing us,” Trump has said of immigrant labor. He hates illegal immigration. He hates it.

Also, though, Donald Trump is a successful businessman. And to be so, it seems as though he has to rely upon immigrant labor on a not irregular basis.

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For example, Trump Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, has relied for years on foreign workers coming in on temporary visas. Trump has brought in these employees for at least 15 years, because he says he can’t find qualified American workers for the same jobs.

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As CNN reported earlier this year, between 2013 and 2015 Mar-a-Lago posted 250 seasonal job openings. Of those, 246 went to foreign workers and four went to Americans.

Now that Trump has based a good deal of his presidential bid on hating illegal immigration and the labor force that comes with it, though, will that reliance on foreign labor change in 2016? No, no it will not.

BuzzFeed reported on Wednesday that Mar-a-Lago Club and the nearby Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, are seeking to fill 78 server, housekeeper, and cook positions with foreign laborers under H-2 guest worker visa applications because Trump’s organizations claim they couldn’t find Americans to do the work.

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Just since his presidential run began a little more than a year ago, in fact, BuzzFeed reports that Trump has gotten permission from the Labor Department to hire 149 other foreign guest workers, again under the auspices that there aren’t enough qualified American workers available to do the jobs.

Why is it so hard to find a qualified American cook, housekeeper, or server in southern Florida? Trump’s businesses argue that these are temporary jobs and that American workers are looking for something more permanent.

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Reporting has shown that there are at least some such workers in existence in southern Florida, though. BuzzFeed, for example, spoke to Tom Veenstra, a senior director at Palm Beach’s career services center, who said that his agency has a database of 1,327 Palm Beach County residents interested in server, cook, and chef positions. Veenstra has said in the past that “we have hundreds of qualified applicants for jobs like those” for which Trump is hiring.

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Mar-a-Lago has only used his agency once, though, to fill just one position. In the past, the resort has done “the bare minimum required by law” to attempt to fill these jobs with American workers before seeking foreign visas, CNN reported in March.

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So if there are American workers who want these jobs and there is more that Donald Trump—who has billed himself as the great champion of American workers—can do to find and hire these people, why hasn’t he?

One possible answer comes from David Seminara, a fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies. In a February article originally published by CIS and then republished in National Review, Seminara explained the appeal of importing foreign workers this way:

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I wrote an in-depth report on H-2Bs in 2010, and I interviewed many H-2B visa applicants as a Foreign Service officer. The H-2B program is more or less despised by both sides of the immigration debate. The human-rights community considers the program legalized slavery, and those who advocate stricter immigration enforcement believe that H-2B workers contribute to unemployment and wage stagnation for U.S. workers. But the business community loves this program because it brings them cheap, reliable labor—people who can’t quit or demand better working conditions.

Seminara is not the only person to describe these employees this way. “You almost have them as indentured servants,” Danny Fontenot, the director of the hospitality program at Palm Beach State College, told the New York Times in February. “And they affect everyone else’s wages. You can make a lot of money by never having to give your employees raises.”

So, shockingly, it turns out there is possibly something that Donald Trump cares about more than helping the American worker: That is finding the cheapest and easiest possible labor for Donald Trump. Maybe that will all change, though, once he’s in the White House.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.

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