Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal.
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Firings at Trump Property Cap Year of Purging Undocumented Workers
By: Mike Baker
December 31, 2019 / The New York Times
For years, the Trump Organization used undocumented workers to tend to its hotels, golf courses and other properties, even as Donald Trump railed against the threat of illegal immigration as both a candidate and president.
This year, faced with a public reckoning after some of those workers came forward, the organization has been cracking down.
Dozens have been fired. The company vowed to follow what was already a widespread industry practice of using E-Verify checks to confirm employment eligibility. Leaders issued messages to laborers that they would need to show proof that they could work. Immigrants from places like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico have left their jobs.
Then, on Monday, after harvests were complete at Trump Winery in Virginia, the organization fired several more.
Anibal Romero, an immigration lawyer who has represented a number of former Trump workers and is advising one of those fired from Trump Winery this week, said the pool of undocumented laborers at Trump properties has always been an open secret.
“He’s benefited from undocumented labor for a very long time,” Mr. Romero said.
Mr. Romero said he believed the Trump Organization thought it could get away with continuing to hire undocumented laborers, who feared repercussions that could disrupt their lives or livelihoods even though some had worked at Trump properties for a decade. But he said that since the Times story last year, more have emerged, empowered to speak. He now represents about 40 undocumented people who have worked at Trump properties.
“These workers have been there for many years,” Mr. Romero said. “It’s sad to hear about their firing. But many of them have been able to move on and get better paying jobs. At first when you hear about them, you feel bad. But then you realize that maybe it wasn’t the best environment to work in.”
In an audio recording from one of the firings this week at Trump Winery, a manager told a worker named Omar Miranda that the company had completed a review of immigration paperwork and found that his “did not seem genuine or was insufficient.”
“Do you currently have legal permission to work in the United States?” the manager asked with the aid of an interpreter. Mr. Miranda responded that he did not.
The manager said the company would not continue employing him. She said that he was “wonderful” and that she was sad about the termination. Mr. Miranda was given six weeks of additional pay.
“If your employment status ever changes, you are welcome back, of course,” she said.
Mr. Romero said he believed the Trump Organization has long known about the workers at the winery, noting that Univision had done a story over the summer focused on them.
“Getting rid of them at that point could have caused problems for the wine,” Mr. Romero said. He believes property leaders waited until the grueling harvest season was complete before letting the workers go.
Mr. Trump made immigration and border security cornerstones of his campaign for the White House. He has pledged to build a border wall, while his administration has carried out aggressive tactics like workplace raids and family detention.
The president has touted himself as a champion of American workers, signing a “Buy American, Hire American” executive order in 2017 to tighten the conditions for visas for foreign workers. But his companies have continued applying for hundreds of guest worker visas.
This month, the Virginia winery posted that it was seeking six foreign workers to perform tasks such as planting, pruning and weed control. The jobs are set to begin in February.