The New York Times published an exposé this week covering the recent purge of undocumented workers from President Trump’s National Jupiter club in Florida.
The Times reported that seven employees of Central American were called up last month on the grounds of a “reorganization” requiring them to prove their legal work status. Six of the workers were unable to do so and were ultimately let go. “They got rid of me after so many years of hard work because I don’t have papers,” said Doroteo Hernández, who had worked for over a decade on the Jupiter maintenance crew. This purge was done discreetly, while President Trump was publicly decrying migrants as scammers, gang members, and people who were a drain on civil society.
Another worker from Guatemala, Giovanni Velásquez, insisted that he had been hired despite not having papers because Jupiter needed him on staff. “The know-how that I have, the work I do, can’t be easily replaced. No American wants to do it.” Velásquez’s explanation is an ironic foil to President Trump’s declaration this weekend that migrants were not welcome in the United States because there’s simply no space for them. “Can’t take you anymore. Can’t take you. Our country is full. Our area is full, the sector is full,” he said at a Border Patrol station in California over the weekend. “So turn around. That’s the way it is.”
Many journalists and historians pointed out the parallels that this rhetoric has to the way the U.S. treated Jewish refugees during the rise of Hitler. The president of HIAS, originally the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, said in an interview with NPR that this line of thought — that there’s just no room for refugees — is a complete rejection of the U.S.’s humanitarian precepts. “[The] entire system of asylum protection and refugee protection in this country and in the world was built on the ashes of the Holocaust to make sure that never again would people be trapped inside of a genocide or trapped inside of a country where they are facing persecution.” (Today, HIAS helps to resettle refugees from all over the world into the United States, modeling the Jewish tradition of helping the stranger.)
While detention facilities may indeed be full, the broader reality is that expanding avenues for legal migration would be beneficial for employers around the country. This is true even at the Trump Organization’s facilities. Because of the seasonal and temporary nature of hospitality work at places like Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, foreigners often end up filling positions that are financially untenable for many Americans. According to employees of Jupiter, documented foreigners at the facility were given housing in nearby gated communities or apartments while they were working under the Trump Organization. In contrast, undocumented foreigners were not afforded the amenity of sponsored living quarters.
This notable disparity in employee benefits recalls the model at Trump’s Bedminster golf club in New Jersey where documented employees received health insurance and pension plans; undocumented workers did not, suggesting that management was aware of their immigration status. Of course, this was just one of many indications that management knew that many of their most dedicated employees were undocumented immigrants.