Trump hires lots of cheap visa labor

CrookedDonald.com has earlier reported how Trump aided his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a scheme to sell Green Cards to Chinese investors at $500,000 a pop. But there is an even more sordid story in Trump’s immigration history: for two decades, Crooked Donald’s company has gamed our jumbled immigration laws to hire foreign workers to save his companies a very few bucks they could have used that money to offer blue and pink collar jobs to American citizens.

Despite his tough talk on immigration, Trump’s immigration proposal will punch a big hole through his border wall to keep a big loophole open, allowing  himself and his fellow casino, hotel and golf course owners to hire thousands of new immigrants each year. In 2016, the national limit for H-2B service workers was 65,000: Republicans in Congress, supported by the Trump administration, used the “must pass” budget bill to double the number of visa workers by 130,000 per year—and each of these workers can stay for up least three years.

And despite extensive investigations of H-2B visa abuses by activists, labor organizations and even the U.S. government, this story has been poorly covered, allowing Trump and his supporters to continue to hire foreign labor and then con American voters into blaming the immigrants, and not their hiring practices, for taking jobs.

In the summer of 2015, a Reuters investigation revealed that, since 2000, the Trump Organization sought visas for over 1,100 foreign workers for two different kinds of workers. In 1999, Trump opened his own modeling agency, which sought visas for 250 women: that’s a whole other story, as modeling agencies are notorious abuses of both women and immigration laws with one former top model calling Trump’s agency “the most crooked she had ever worked for.” (You can read about Trump’s crimes against fashion by clicking here.)

Our story is concerned with the other 850 visa applications from Trump (nearly all were approved) for H-2 visas to hire yard workers, cooks, wait staff or cleaning personnel for Trump properties in Florida, Las Vegas, Chicago and Virginia. When Reuters asked why Trump’s company was hiring so many foreign workers for basic labor, the company’s absurd response was that there was a shortage of qualified workers, even though local officials confirmed to Reuters and local press that plenty of American citizens were available for such work. (Seriously, there is a critical shortage of cooks, waiters and maids in Chicago and Vegas? Are you kidding?)

While few media outlets picked up the story, Reuters and the Palm Beach Post stayed on it and  would learn in December that, after the election and despite all Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric, the Trump Organization applied for dozens more visa workers to serve Trump at his “Winter White House. Again they claimed labor shortages, even as local officials repeated that there was plenty of American labor available.

Trump’s companies exploit the H Class visa, or so-called guest workers. There are three classes of H visa, H-1, usually reserved for professionals like engineers or executives; H-2A, used by food processing companies and large farms (FYI, often overlooked is Trump’s winery, which hires about 30 H-2A immigrants a year for grape harvesting); and H-2B workers, Trump’s preferred visa for hiring maids, waiters and golf course landscapers.

And contrary to popular belief, visa workers are required by law to be paid at least minimum wage or better and they must make mandatory payments to the Social Security and Medicare system—at least, in theory. Problem is, nearly all of these workers come to the United States through “labor recruitment agencies” that visit foreign countries to hire cheap labor and these companies are supposed to be monitored by immigration authorities.

Years of documentation has proved that our overworked immigration system is wholly incapable of monitoring these “recruiters” or even tracking the workers who get the visas. Worse, in 2008 and acting on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau, the Bush administration issued regulations that effectively ended all effective government oversight of all H-2 workers.

So this system is easily abused by the Trump Organization and others: while individual visa applications are filed by employers like Trump, these employers actually pay the recruiters to handle the responsibilities of paying their workers and obeying labor and immigration laws.

Studies by private groups and even a 2015 government report found visa recruiters almost never paid worker travel expenses to the U.S. (as required by law) of visa workers and usually charge workers thousands more in illegal fees to get a visa. Recruiters also routinely underpaid and abused the workers while failing to make mandatory Social Security and Medicare payments. Worse, government investigators focusing have repeatedly found that H-2 visa workers and their children were at high risk of becoming human trafficking victims.

And this is all by design: recruiters that won’t obey the law will save employers like Trump tens of thousands in labor costs. In the extremely rare case when the federal government does take action against a recruiter, employers like Trump simply blames those recruiters, claiming ignorance to avoid any responsibility and liability. (When asked about hiring visa workers directly, Trump has declared “I don’t hire ’em…I don’t who does.”)

Strangely, in a rare case of agreement across idealogical lines, economists, labor unions and even former-Senator Jeff Sessions, have all suggested a very simple solution to the H-2B visas: pay American workers nominally better wages and benefits and that would automatically slash the number of imported workers. And if employers and their recruiters followed the law, that would work: if visa workers got minimum wage, had all their travel expenses to the US paid and if Social Security and Medicare were fully paid for visa workers, the cost of American labor would become very competitive in many places.

In 2015, following that damning government investigation, Labor Secretary Tom Perez (now leader of the Democratic National Committee), issued new regulations to make it much harder for some companies to hire visa service workers, force recruiters to cooperate and submit more information to immigration officials and targeted other abuses. The Labor Department was immediately sued, so those regulations are in limbo but it doesn’t matter: Jeff Sessions is now Attorney General and has no interest in enforcing wage laws, while Trump’s not only doubled the number of H-2B visas, he cut enforcement funding for the program in favor of his border wall.

And let’s talk about that wall: it won’t do any damn good because the Trump Organization, as with most H-2B visa employers bring in workers legally, but they often overstay their visas and become illegal. This month, a government study confirmed a trend first spotted in in the 1990s: that more than half the illegal immigrants now living in the United States entered legally and played by the rules, but then overstayed their visas.

In other words, a few years ago, more than four million now currently illegal immigrants simply caught a plane, boat or bus, bearing a visa from the Trump Organization or the many thousands of other companies seeking cheap labor. The best protection to reduce that problem is telling employers to both pay American workers more and to obey the law when immigrants, but that is not a catchy campaign slogan.

Nor will Crooked Donald ever discuss his own role in recruiting immigrants—reporters have asked hundreds of questions on this topic to the Trump Organization and the White House about his hiring immigrants: the rest is silence.

We welcome comments, questions and encourage readers to submit news tips, local articles and information on organizations, local events and other actions taken by our fellow citizens who are also dedicated to holding the Trump administration accountable.

 

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