Trump vot­ers up­set about hir­ing of il­le­gals

Democrats see open­ing for at­tacks in Rust Belt

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

HANOVER, PA. | Pres­i­dent Trump’s sup­port­ers are shocked and dis­ap­pointed that his busi­ness em­pire em­ployed il­le­gal im­mi­grants, even while he was in the Oval Of­fice and call­ing on Congress for a crack­down.

“That does bother me be­cause a lot of the em­ploy­ers who hire il­le­gal im­mi­grants take ad­van­tage of it to pay them less and work them like dogs,” said Katie Har­ring­ton, 55, a Trump voter who owns the All About You hair sa­lon.

Ms. Har­ring­ton switched from Demo­crat to Repub­li­can in 2016 be­cause of Mr. Trump, help­ing a Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date win Penn­syl­va­nia for the first time in 28 years and seal Mr. Trump’s up­set vic­tory.

Now she, like other Trump vot­ers across this cru­cial 2020 bat­tle­ground state, strug­gled to ex­cuse the pres­i­dent.

“I’m sure it is just cheap la­bor,” said Butch Skid­more, 40, a Trump voter and for­mer Navy SEAL who was toss­ing back a beer at the bar in the Repub­li­can Club of Hanover.

But he bris­tled at the re­ports of wide­spread

hir­ing of il­le­gal im­mi­grants as house­keep­ers, groundskeep­ers and la­bor­ers at Trump golf clubs and re­sorts, as well as a Wash­ing­ton Post re­port de­tail­ing how the pres­i­dent’s son Eric Trump em­ployed an il­le­gal im­mi­grant as the care­taker of his pri­vate hunt­ing re­treat.

“That’s a lit­tle up­set­ting, to be hon­est with you,” said Mr. Skid­more, who cites stop­ping il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion as a top con­cern.

He still planned to vote for Mr. Trump next year, say­ing he was more ex­cited about it than in 2016 be­cause Mr. Trump nev­er­the­less was keep­ing his prom­ises, in­clud­ing com­bat­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

“He is fight­ing his ass off for the wall,” said Mr. Skid­more.

In in­ter­views with Trump vot­ers through­out Penn­syl­va­nia, the pres­i­dent got the ben­e­fit of the doubt. His sup­port­ers said he ei­ther was not re­spon­si­ble for front-line hir­ing de­ci­sions or that em­ploy­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants is a com­mon and near-un­avoid­able prac­tice in Amer­ica’s hos­pi­tal­ity and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries.

They should ex­pect to hear more about the il­le­gal hires as Democrats make it part of their as­sault on Mr. Trump’s cred­i­bil­ity and try to punc­ture his Rust Belt base, said Demo­cratic strate­gist Brad Ban­non.

“The real is­sue is Trump’s hypocrisy. His il­le­gal use of im­mi­grants is just an­other ex­am­ple of Trump say­ing one thing and do­ing an­other, just like his em­brace of tra­di­tional val­ues in con­trast to his extramarital af­fairs,” he said. “His employment of im­mi­grants is sim­ply a small part of a big­ger pic­ture. The big pic­ture will cost him sup­port with the mid­dle-class vot­ers who want him to play by the rules just like they do.”

Demo­cratic mem­bers of Congress be­gan high­light­ing the il­le­gal hires dur­ing the pres­i­dent’s State of the Union ad­dress. They brought to the speech as their guests two women, Vic­to­rina Mo­rales and San­dra Diaz, who were il­le­gal im­mi­grants when they worked at Trump Na­tional Golf Club in Bed­min­ster, New Jersey.

“I’ve in­vited Vic­to­rina so that he may look her in her eyes to tell his lies to a fa­mil­iar face,” said Rep. Bon­nie Wat­son Cole­man, New Jersey Demo­crat.

Af­ter the first il­le­gal im­mi­grants came for­ward late last year to say they had been em­ployed at one of his golf cour­ses, The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ported that just five of the 565 com­pa­nies in Mr. Trump’s busi­ness em­pire were signed up to use E-Ver­ify, the gov­ern­ment’s best tool to weed il­le­gal im­mi­grants out of the work­force.

It took a sec­ond round of il­le­gal im­mi­grants who said they, too, worked at Trump prop­er­ties to spark a change. In Jan­uary, the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion an­nounced it would start us­ing E-Ver­ify. The busi­nesses also re­sponded to re­ports of il­le­gal work­ers by fir­ing scores of em­ploy­ees who were in the coun­try un­law­fully.

About 11 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants are liv­ing in the U.S. and 7.8 mil­lion have jobs, ac­count­ing for nearly 5 per­cent of the civil­ian work­force, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter.

In the U.S., il­le­gal im­mi­grants make up roughly 53 per­cent of farmhands, 15 per­cent of con­struc­tion la­bor, and 9 per­cent of man­u­fac­tur­ing and ser­vice in­dus­try work­ers, ac­cord­ing to Pew.

“How is he dif­fer­ent from the other peo­ple who hire il­le­gal im­mi­grants?” said An­drew, a 42-year-old in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy worker in the state cap­i­tal, Har­ris­burg, who did not give his last name.

He said he was a reg­is­tered Demo­crat who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and might vote for him again, but he called the de­ci­sion a “fluid sit­u­a­tion” that will in­clude con­sid­er­a­tion of the il­le­gal em­ploy­ees.

“Amer­i­cans should have Amer­i­can jobs,” he said. “Ev­ery­one has a right to come here, but there is a for­mal process. That’s why we have laws.”

David W. Leopold, an im­mi­gra­tion lawyer and coun­sel to the im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cacy group Amer­ica’s Voice, said Trump sup­port­ers were grasp­ing at straws to de­fend him.

“The ex­cuse that Don­ald Trump is too busy to know about hir­ing at his ‘em­pire’ is lu­di­crous. First, it isn’t an em­pire. It’s a small fam­ily busi­ness. Par­tic­u­larly the golf clubs,” he said. “It’s clear that small num­bers of peo­ple work at the clubs for many years and knew and in­ter­acted with Trump per­son­ally. That in­cludes the un­doc­u­mented work­ers such as Vic­to­rina Mo­rales and San­dra Diaz.”

“The ‘ev­ery­body does it’ ex­cuse is no ex­cuse. Trump based his can­di­dacy and now his pres­i­dency on stop­ping il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. It is the height of hypocrisy for Trump to ex­ploit un­doc­u­mented work­ers for per­sonal gain while sep­a­rat­ing chil­dren at the bor­der, de­stroy­ing fam­i­lies in the U.S. and scream­ing for a bor­der wall,” said Mr. Leopold. “Since when is break­ing the law ac­cept­able if ev­ery­one is do­ing it? The an­swer is ei­ther to hold them ac­count­able for break­ing the law or change the law to le­gal­ize the 11 mil­lion.”

Ford O’Con­nell, a Repub­li­can Party strate­gist closely al­lied with the White House, said the crit­i­cism will ring hol­low be­cause it comes from Democrats push­ing an open-borders agenda of sanc­tu­ary cities and vot­ing rights for il­le­gals.

“Ob­vi­ously the Democrats are go­ing to throw the kitchen sink at him and try to dis­lodge any sup­port he has in the Rust Belt. That’s what they see as their path to vic­tory,” he said.

Mr. O’Con­nell said the pres­i­dent can easily bat away the crit­i­cism by say­ing, “As a busi­ness­man I took ad­van­tage of a rigged sys­tem that works against the Amer­i­can worker. As pres­i­dent my fore­most con­cern is the Amer­i­can worker, and that’s why I’m work­ing to fix our bro­ken sys­tem.

“The prob­lem is the bro­ken sys­tem,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Trump Na­tional Golf Club in Bed­min­ster, New Jersey, and some of Pres­i­dent Trump’s other busi­nesses were em­ploy­ing un­doc­u­mented work­ers as house­keep­ers, groundskeep­ers and la­bor­ers even while he called for a crack­down on il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

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