Trump’s legacy felt in Costa Rica town

Ex-N.J. golf club work­ers say lack of le­gal sta­tus known

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - NATION & WORLD - By Joshua Part­low, Nick Miroff and David A. Fahren­thold

SANTA TERESA DE CAJON, Costa Rica — At his home on the misty slope of Costa Rica’s tallest moun­tain, Dario An­gulo keeps a set of pho­to­graphs from the years he tended the rolling fair­ways and clipped greens of a far­away Amer­i­can golf re­sort.

An­gulo learned to drive back­hoes and bull­doz­ers, carv­ing wa­ter haz­ards and tee boxes out of for­mer horse pas­tures in Bed­min­ster, N.J., where a fa­mous New Yorker was build­ing a world-class course. An­gulo earned $8 an hour, a frac­tion of what a state-li­censed heavy equip­ment op­er­a­tor would make, with no ben­e­fits or over­time pay. But he stayed seven years on the grounds crew, sav­ing enough for a small piece of land and some cat­tle back home.

Now the 34-year-old lives with his wife and daugh­ters in a sturdy house built by “Trump money,” as he put it, with a porch to watch the sun go down.

It’s a com­mon story in this small town.

Other for­mer em­ploy­ees of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s com­pany live nearby: men who once raked the sand traps and pushed mow­ers through thick heat on prized golf prop­erty — the “Sum­mer White House,” as aides have called it — where his daugh­ter Ivanka got mar­ried and where he wants to build a fam­ily ceme­tery.

“Many of us helped him get what he has to­day,” An­gulo said. “This golf course was built by il­le­gals.”

The Washington Post spoke with 16 men and women from Costa Rica and other Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, in­clud­ing six in Santa Teresa de Cajon, who said they were em­ployed at the Trump Na­tional Golf Club Bed­min­ster. All of them said they worked for Trump with­out le­gal sta­tus — and that their man­agers knew.

The for­mer em­ploy­ees who still live in New Jer­sey pro­vided pay slips doc­u­ment­ing their work at the Bed­min­ster club. They iden­ti­fied friends and rel­a­tives in Costa Rica who also were em­ployed at the course. In Costa Rica, The Post lo­cated for­mer work­ers in two re­gions who pro­vided de­tailed ac­counts of their time at the Bed­min­ster prop­erty and shared mem­o­ra­bilia they had kept, such as Trump-branded golf tees, as well as pho­tos of them­selves at the club.

The brightly painted homes that line the road in Santa Teresa de Cajon, many paid for by wages earned more than 4,000 miles away, are the fruits of a long-run­ning pipe­line of il­le­gal work­ers to the pres­i­dent’s course, one that car­ried far more than a few unau­tho­rized em­ploy­ees who slipped through the cracks.

Soon af­ter Trump broke ground at Bed­min­ster in 2002 with a golden shovel, this vil­lage emerged as a well­spring of low-paid la­bor for the pri­vate club, which charges tens of thou­sands of dol­lars to join. Over the years, dozens of work­ers from Costa Rica filled jobs as groundskeep­ers, house­keep­ers and dish­wash­ers at Bed­min­ster, for­mer em­ploy­ees said. The club hired oth­ers from El Sal­vador, Mex­ico and Gu­atemala who spoke to The Post. Many ended up in the blue-col­lar bor­ough of Bound Brook, N.J., pil­ing into vans be­fore dawn to head to the course each morn­ing.

Their de­scrip­tions of Bed­min­ster’s long re­liance on il­le­gal work­ers are bol­stered by a newly ob­tained po­lice re­port show­ing that the club’s head of se­cu­rity was told in 2011 about an em­ployee sus­pected of us­ing false iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pa­pers — the first known doc­u­men­ta­tion of a warn­ing to the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion about the le­gal sta­tus of a worker.

Other su­per­vi­sors re­ceived sim­i­lar flags over the years, in­clud­ing Bed­min­ster’s gen­eral man­ager, who was told by a worker from Ecuador sev­eral years ago that she en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally, the em­ployee said.

Eric Trump, a son of the pres­i­dent who runs the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion along with brother Don­ald Trump Jr., de­clined to com­ment on the ac­counts by the for­mer work­ers. Bed­min­ster man­agers did not re­turn re­quests for com­ment.

The com­pany’s re­cent purge of unau­tho­rized work­ers from at least five Trump prop­er­ties con­trib­utes to mount­ing ev­i­dence that the pres­i­dent ben­e­fited for years from the work of il­le­gal la­bor­ers he now vil­i­fies.

It re­mains un­clear what mea­sures Trump or his com­pany took to avoid hir­ing such work­ers, even af­ter he launched a White House bid built around the threat he says they pose to Amer­i­cans.

White House of­fi­cials did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Eric Trump has said he and other se­nior Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­ec­u­tives did not know the com­pany hired il­le­gal work­ers, not­ing that the em­ploy­ees used fal­si­fied doc­u­ments.

“We have tens of thou­sands of em­ploy­ees across our prop­er­ties and have very strict hir­ing prac­tices,” the com­pany said in a state­ment in De­cem­ber. “If any em­ployee sub­mit­ted false doc­u­men­ta­tion in an at­tempt to cir­cum­vent the law, they will be ter­mi­nated im­me­di­ately. We take this is­sue very se­ri­ously.”

Over the years, the net­work from Costa Rica to Bed­min­ster ex­panded as work­ers re­cruited friends and rel­a­tives, some fly­ing to the United States on tourist visas and oth­ers pay­ing smug­glers thou­sands of dol­lars to help them cross the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, for­mer em­ploy­ees said. New hires needed lit­tle more than a crudely printed phony green card and a fake So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber to land a job, they said.

Some work­ers de­scribed Bed­min­ster as their launch­pad to buy homes and start busi­nesses. Oth­ers re­mem­bered it as gru­el­ing la­bor un­der bosses who were de­mand­ing, even big­oted — and who at times used the work­ers’ il­le­gal sta­tus against them.

Af­ter the New York Times in De­cem­ber re­ported about two house­keep­ers with­out le­gal sta­tus who worked at Bed­min­ster, the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion fired at least 18 em­ploy­ees at five golf cour­ses in New York and New Jer­sey, part of what Eric Trump has said is “a broad ef­fort” to iden­tify unau­tho­rized work­ers. An ad­di­tional undis­closed num­ber were fired from Bed­min­ster, for­mer em­ploy­ees said.

As pres­i­dent, his father has re­peat­edly called for a crack­down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

“Tol­er­ance for il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is not com­pas­sion­ate — it is cruel,” Trump said dur­ing his re­cent State of the Union ad­dress

But the lax hir­ing prac­tices at Bed­min­ster and other Trump prop­er­ties de­scribed by for­mer em­ploy­ees — in­clud­ing some who said their su­per­vi­sors dis­cussed their fake doc­u­ments — stand in sharp con­trast with Trump’s rhetoric.

While other top-tier golf U.S. cour­ses adopted the fed­eral govern­ment’s EVer­ify sys­tem to check the im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of po­ten­tial hires, the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion is only now plan­ning to im­ple­ment it.

CAROLYN VAN HOUTEN/THE WASHINGTON POST

For­mer groundskeeper Dario An­gulo farms cat­tle in Costa Rica and lives in a home that was built by “Trump money.”

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