‘Tired of the abuse’: the illegal immigrant who makes Donald Trump’s bed
Victorina Morales used false papers to secure job at Trump club in New Jersey
During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Victorina Morales has made Donald Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.
Because of the “outstanding” support she has provided during Trump’s visits, Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name. Quite an achievement for an immigrant housekeeper living in the country without legal permission.
Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.
She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally. Sandra Diaz (46), a native of Costa Rica who is now a legal resident of the United States, said she, too, was in the country without legal permission when she worked at Bedminster between 2010 and 2013.
The two women said they worked for years as part of a group of housekeeping, maintenance and landscaping employees at the golf club that included a number of workers in the country without legal permission, though they could not say precisely how many.
There is no evidence that Trump or Trump Organization executives knew of their immigration status. But at least two supervisors at the club were aware of it, the women said, and took steps to help workers evade detection and keep their jobs.
“There are many people without papers,” said Diaz, who said she witnessed several people being hired whom she knew to be living in the country without legal permission. Trump has made border security and the fight to protect jobs for Americans a cornerstone of his presidency, from the border wall he has pledged to build to the workplace raids and payroll audits that his administration has carried out.
During the presidential campaign, when the Trump International Hotel opened for business in Washington, Trump boasted that he had used an electronic verification system, E-Verify, to ensure that only those legally entitled to work were hired.
“We didn’t have one illegal immigrant on the job,” Trump said then. But throughout his campaign and his administration, Morales (45), has been reporting for work at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, where she is still on the payroll. An employee of the golf course drives her and a group of others to work every day, she says, because it is known that they cannot legally obtain driver’s licences.
A diminutive woman with only two years of education who came to the United States speaking no English, Morales has had an unusual window into one of the president’s favourite retreats.
She has cleaned the president’s villa while he watched television nearby; she stood on the sidelines when potential cabinet members were brought in for interviews and when the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, arrived to confer with the president.
“I never imagined, as an immigrant from the countryside in Guatemala, that I would see such important people close up,” she said.
But Morales said she has been hurt by Trump’s public comments since he became president, including equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals. It was that, she said, along with abusive comments from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and immigration status, that made her feel that she could no longer keep silent.
“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she said. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”
Morales and Diaz approached the New York Times through their New Jersey lawyer, Anibal Romero, who is representing them on immigration matters.
Morales said that she understood she could be fired or deported as a result of coming forward, though she has applied for protection under the asylum laws. She is also exploring a lawsuit claiming workplace abuse and discrimination.
In separate, hours-long interviews in Spanish, Morales and Diaz provided detailed accounts of their work at the club and their interactions with management, including Trump. Both women described the president as demanding but kind, sometimes offering hefty tips.
Morales has had dealings with Trump that go back years, and her husband has confirmed that she would on occasion come home jubilant because the club owner had paid her a compliment, or bestowed on her a $50 or sometimes a $100 tip.
The Trump Organization, which owns the golf course, did not comment specifically on Morales or Diaz.
“We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices,” Amanda Miller, the company’s senior vice president for marketing and corporate communications, said in a statement.
“If an employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately.”
The White House declined to comment. That Morales appeared able to secure employment with what she said were fake documents is not surprising: An estimated eight million immigrants in the US without legal permission are in the labour force, and it is an open secret that many businesses, especially in the service sector, hire them.
Trump has a long history of relying on immigrants at his golf and hotel properties. Though he signed a “Buy American, Hire American” executive order in 2017 tightening the conditions for visas for foreign workers, his companies have hired hundreds of foreigners on guest-worker visas.
Trump opened his trophy club in the affluent horse country of Somerset County, New Jersey, in 2004.
After buying the 204-hectare (504-acre) property from a group of investors in 2002, Trump planted a sweeping colonnade of maple trees at the entrance and built two 18-hole golf courses, their design inspired by the gardens of Versailles. The membership initiation fee is more than $100,000 (¤88,000).
The property has an estimated 40 to 80 employees, depending on the season; the bulk of the basic service workers are foreign-born. Immigrants keep the greens watered and manicured. They clean and maintain the cottages and suites that surround the junior Olympic-size heated pool.
The president has spent all or part of about 70 days at Bedminster since taking office. He has a two-story residence on the property; his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, were married at the club in 2009, and also have a cottage.
The job at Bedminster, at which Morales earns $13 (¤11.40) an hour, is one of several she said she has held since arriving in the United States in 1999, crossing undetected into California after a journey of nearly six weeks by bus and on foot. After she first arrived in Los Angeles, a contact provided her with a false social security number and an identification card that she was told would enable her to secure employment. She then flew to New Jersey, where she joined her husband, who had arrived months earlier.
By the time Morales was hired by the Trump golf club, Diaz had been working there since 2010 and had the job of cleaning Trump’s residence. She said she washed and ironed Trump’s white boxers, golf shirts and khaki trousers, as well as his sheets and towels. Everything belonging to Trump, his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, was washed with special detergent in a smaller, separate washing machine, she said.
“He is extremely meticulous about everything. If he arrives suddenly, everyone runs around like crazy” because Donald Trump inspects everything closely, Diaz said.
She recalled a nervous moment in 2012, when Trump approached her and asked her to follow him to the clubhouse, a renovated 1930s Georgian manor, where he proceeded to run his fingers around the edges of frames on the wall and over table surfaces to check for dust.
“You did a really great job,” she said he told her, and handed her a $100 bill. That same year, she said, Trump had an outburst over some orange stains on the collar of his white golf shirt, which Diaz described as stubborn remnants of his makeup, which she had difficulty removing.
When Morales joined the housekeeping team in 2013, Diaz was in charge of training her, and began to take her to tend to Trump’s house. In November of that year, when Diaz quit, Morales and the housekeeping supervisor took on the job of cleaning Trump’s house together.
Morales said she will never forget the day Trump pulled up to the pro shop in his cart as she was washing its large, arched windows. Noticing that Morales, who is shy of 5 feet tall, could not reach the top, he said, “Excuse me,” grabbed her rag and wiped the upper portion of the glass.
Trump then asked Morales her name and where she was from, she recalled. “I said, ‘I am from Guatemala’. He said, ‘Guatemalans are hardworking people.’”
The president then reached into his pocket and handed her a $50 bill. “I told myself, ‘God bless him.’ I thought, he’s a good person,” Morales recalled.
Now that Trump was president, there was more than the usual excitement whenever he arrived. Morales was still asked to clean Trump’s residence on occasion, and had to wear a Secret Service pin whenever the president was on site, she said, most likely identifying her as an employee, though the pins did not mean employees had a security clearance.
As the months went on, she and other employees at the golf club became increasingly disturbed about Trump’s comments, which they felt demeaned immigrants from Mexico and Central America.
The president’s tone seemed to embolden others to make negative comments, Morales said. The housekeeping supervisor frequently made remarks about the employees’ vulnerable legal status when critiquing their work, she said, sometimes calling them “stupid illegal immigrants” with less intelligence than a dog.
Morales expects she will have to leave her job as soon as her name and work status are made public. She understands she could be deported.
She said she is certain that her employers – perhaps even Trump – knew of her unlawful status all along. “I ask myself, is it possible that this señor thinks we have papers? He knows we don’t speak English,” Morales said. “Why wouldn’t he figure it out?” – New York Times
‘‘ I ask myself, is it possible that this señor thinks we have papers? He knows we don’t speak English
Victorina Morales at her home in Bound Brook, New Jersey. “We are tired of the abuse, the insults...”