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Undocumented Workers Lose Their Jobs at Yet Another Trump Property

5 Feb

President Trump’s family business has employed undocumented workers more broadly than it was previously believed, with multiple workers losing their jobs last month at a Trump golf club in southern New Jersey.

The club in Pine Hill, N.J., known as the Trump National Golf Club Philadelphia, was the third Trump property where undocumented workers have been fired since The New York Times reported in December that the Trump club in Bedminster, N.J., for years employed immigrants who were in the country unlawfully.

The president’s company terminated about a dozen undocumented workers at the Bedminster property after the article was published, as well as a dozen workers at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester, in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

People familiar with the terminations at Pine Hill said that about five workers at that property were fired or told not to report to work again, including two seasonal employees who were not scheduled to work until the spring. One of the people familiar with the matter said that many other seasonal workers expected to be told not to return in the coming weeks.

The revelations about the undocumented workers has been an embarrassment for the Trump Organization, coming to light as Mr. Trump has railed against illegal immigration, blamed undocumented immigrants for crime and pledged to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep more people from entering the country unlawfully.

The company has said it was duped by employees who used false identification to get their jobs. But some of the workers in Bedminster told The Times they were kept on the payroll despite the fact that management was aware of the false documents.

A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on Friday.

The workers at the Pine Hill property said their terminations, which occurred in January, came abruptly.

“Just like that, I got fired,” said Victor Reyes, who is from Mexico and worked in the kitchen alongside the chef.

“The manager called me and asked, ‘Victor, are you legal?’ I said, ‘No, I am not legal.’ It surprised me because I knew he knew that I was illegal. I have worked for him 16 years and then he asks me,” said Mr. Reyes, who added that it was his first job since crossing the border.

Mr. Reyes had worked up from a dishwasher to grilling steaks and preparing a la carte orders, he said, and acquired many cooking skills along the way.

The firings at the Pine Hill golf club were the result of a broader audit that the Trump Organization is conducting at its properties across the country, according to people briefed on the review. Although the organization has conducted similar reviews in prior years, this is the largest effort yet to ensure that the company’s employees are authorized to work in the country.

The review has presented yet another legal and public relations headache for company executives who are trying to contain the fallout from the revelations. It comes as the Trump Organization is facing wider scrutiny from congressional Democrats examining the company’s business practices.

At this point in the review, the issues appear to have been largely concentrated in the Bedminster and Westchester golf clubs, the people said, though the discovery of undocumented workers at the southern New Jersey property show that the matter is more widespread than initially believed. The terminations at the Westchester club were first reported by The Washington Post.

The Trump Organization announced on Tuesday that it was using a system — known as E-verify — to prevent undocumented workers from getting jobs at its properties. For the last several years, the company had utilized that system in many of its hotel properties, though it did not adopt it at most of the golf courses.

“I must say, for me personally, this whole thing is truly heartbreaking,” Eric Trump, an executive vice president with the Trump Organization, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our employees are like family, but when presented with fake documents, an employer has little choice.”

He said that hiring undocumented immigrants was not a problem unique to the Trump Organization, and that it “demonstrates that our immigration system is severely broken and needs to be fixed immediately.”

About eight million undocumented workers participate in the United States labor force, and it is an open secret that they use fake documents to get hired, typically made-up social security numbers and permanent residency cards.

The Pine Hill club has an 18-hole golf course surrounded by maple and pine trees on 365 acres. Members enjoy putting greens and a 43,000-square-foot clubhouse where weddings and other events take place. Sitting atop a hill, it boasts a view of the Philadelphia skyline.

The golf club employs 100 to 200 people, many of them in seasonal jobs. Immigrants employed there were charged with watering, mowing and manicuring the greens; the upkeep of the banquet hall, which has a 300-person capacity; and preparing food in the club’s restaurant.

Because the workers do not have lawyers and remain in the country illegally, two of those who described the firings, as well as their family members, declined to be named.

Workers said that those who were terminated were summoned to a meeting with Eric Quinn, the general manager, and a human-resources executive who they believed was from the Trump Organization. Each was told that their documents did not pass inspection after an audit and that they should leave the premises immediately, leaving some of the workers who lacked driver’s licenses to scramble to find rides home.

“People were getting fired on the spot, no warning, no nothing. No time to find a job,” said one worker, who declined to be named.

The worker said that the immigrants had been treated well by the club’s management and that some of them had broken down when they were fired. “It’s not easy to find a job if you don’t have papers, after you worked there,” the worker said. The general manager, according to several accounts, was said to have lamented the terminations.

Executives at the Pine Hill club declined to comment.

The problem of undocumented workers at Trump properties came to light in December, when The Times wrote about Victorina Morales of Guatemala, a housekeeper at the Bedminster property who made the president’s bed, washed his clothes and dusted his golf trophies for five years. After Mr. Trump was elected, a manager told her that her fake documents had expired and helped her acquire new ones.

Ms. Morales said that on the advice of her lawyer, she stopped going to work on Dec. 4, two days before The Times article was published. The lawyer, Anibal Romero, has said that neither he nor his client had been notified that she was fired, and that her employment status was not clear.

Ms. Morales, who is protected from deportation because she applied for asylum, was invited by her Democratic congresswoman, Bonnie Watson Coleman, to attend the State of the Union address on Tuesday. Also attending will be Sandra Diaz, a native of Costa Rica and a legal resident of the United States who said she was undocumented when she worked at the Trump resort. She will be the guest of Representative Jimmy Gomez, a California Democrat.

Another undocumented worker, Emma Torres, told The Times that someone in human resources at the Bedminster club had removed her name and other undocumented workers’ names from a list of employees submitted to the Secret Service in 2017. Ms. Torres quit shortly after on her own volition.

At Pine Hill, Mr. Reyes said that he was treated well by Mr. Quinn, the general manager, and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to grow professionally during his years at the golf club, where his hard work was recognized, he said. Over the years, on the job his repertoire of dishes grew and he learned English.

“I had too many raises,” said the immigrant from Puebla, who said that he earned $18 an hour. The money enabled him to pay his rent and send money to his family back in Mexico.

He received his first bonus in all his years working at the club, he said, in late December. In hindsight, Mr. Reyes wonders whether that was because management knew that he would not be welcome back after the winter hiatus.

Now, he said, he is seething with a sense of betrayal.

“I loved my job. I learned to cook everything. They helped me grow,” he said, erupting in tears. “Now I feel bad. I don’t trust nobody.”

Mr. Trump, who during his campaign called Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals,” has made border security and protecting jobs for Americans cornerstones of his presidency. His commitment to erecting a border wall resulted in the recent partial government shutdown.

He has deemed illegal immigration “a major, major problem,” and his administration has intensified workplace raids and payroll audits at companies suspected of employing undocumented workers.