He’s Gotta Have It


President Trump has been insistent that Congress give him money to build a wall on the southern border — that structure of concrete or steel slats that will somehow magically stop illegal immigration (even though, these days, most undocumented immigrants arrive with visas and do not depart when their visa expires).

Thanks to a lengthy Washington Post article published on February 8th by a team of journalists, including Pulitzer Prize-winner David Farenthold, we learned there is something else Mr. Trump must have. At the same time that Donald Trump has staked his presidency on building The Wall, he has staked his business success on the availability of undocumented workers he is trying to keep out as president.

The Post article tells the story of the undocumented workers who tended grounds, provided housekeeping services and worked in the kitchen of Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. The article notes that, in the estimation of the workers interviewed, more than 100 undocumented workers labored at the Bedminster golf course at one time. And Bedminster is not the only Trump property that employed undocumented workers.

Officially, managers deny knowing their workers were undocumented, though it is hard to believe that it is mere coincidence that the undocumented workers did not get the health insurance and other benefits that other workers received, or that an undocumented heavy equipment operator was paid $8 per hour instead of the going rate of $51 to $55 per hour.

But leaving aside the hypocrisy in this particular instance, there is a larger point to be made. American employers need these workers. As I mentioned in my last post, undocumented workers make up 4.8 percent of the U.S. workforce. However, they are a far greater component of some occupations and industries.

For example, Trump properties relied in part on undocumented workers for housekeeping. According to the latest estimates by Pew Research, one in four “maids & housekeeping cleaners” (a Census-designated occupation) is undocumented. The Bedminster golf course also relied on undocumented grounds maintenance workers, but so do U.S. employers in general. There are two related Census-designated occupations pertaining to groundskeeping: “grounds maintenance workers,” nearly one-in-five (19 percent) of whom are undocumented, and “supervisors of landscaping, lawn service & groundskeeping workers,” 10 percent of whom are undocumented.

The Trump property also had undocumented cooks (15 percent of that workforce in the U.S. is undocumented, as well as 10 percent of all “food preparation workers”); dishwashers (17 percent in the U.S. are undocumented); and janitors (10 percent of the U.S. workforce is undocumented).

Source: Pew Research Center

To lose all of these workers would be a major blow not just to the Trump golf courses, but to thousands of U.S. businesses.

Oh, one more thing we can surmise from the article: Despite the fact that it has been known for some time that Trump golf courses have used undocumented workers, there have been no worksite raids at Trump golf courses. So, apparently, ICE does have enforcement priorities.

Photo credit: Flickr user Khairil Faizi under the Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Author: Maurice Belanger

Maurice Belanger is an analyst and writer with more than 25 years experience working in the field of immigration policy.

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