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Donald’s Double Standard: Only 1 American hired in 2017

Vox reports that three Trump properties hired 144 foreign workers and just 1 American over the last two years while White House restricts avenues of legal immigration

Brian Young's picture
Feb 15, 2018

During the 2016 election, Trump spent much of the time on the campaign trail promising an “America First” policy that would bring jobs back to the United States. He even used his large Twitter following to pressure companies like Carrier that were moving jobs overseas. Like much of his agenda though this was just another con.

A new Vox survey found that when Trump had the choice of hiring American workers at his properties or bringing in immigrants, he usually chose the cheaper immigrant option. Through a program known as the H2-B Visa program, two of his Florida properties (including the “Winter White House” in Mar-a-Lago) and one in New York hired 144 low skilled temporary guest workers to fill positions such as servers, cooks, housekeepers, and bartenders. To receive these Visas the company must first try to hire American workers at a “reasonable” wage. Over the period from 2016-2017, the properties hired only one American worker, a cook. In 2017, Trump expanded the H2-B Visa program. Below is the full report.

President Donald Trump's businesses don’t seem too concerned about “America First."

A Vox analysis of hiring records for seasonal workers at three Trump properties in New York and Florida revealed that only one out of 144 jobs went to a US worker from 2016 to the end of 2017. Foreign guest workers with H-2B visas got the rest.

The H-2B visa program allows seasonal, non-agricultural employers — like hotels and ski resorts — to hire foreign workers when they can’t find American ones. The Trump administration temporarily expanded this guest-worker program in 2017 while restricting other avenues of legal immigration, including the H-1B program for high-skilled workers.

The Trump Organization is exactly the kind of company that relies on the H-2B visa program for low-skilled workers.

Vox reviewed recruiting files submitted to the US Department of Labor for two Trump properties in Florida (including Mar-a-Lago) and one in New York from the start of 2016 through the end of 2017. In that period, hiring managers said they were able to find and hire only one qualified American worker — a cook — for 144 open positions for servers, cooks, housekeepers, and bartenders.

A review of properties listed in a 2016 Business Insider report indicates Trump owns 17 major hotels and clubs in the US. A search of the Department of Labor database revealed three that applied for H-2B visas in 2016 and 2017.

Under the H-2B program, employers must first try to hire American workers — or legal immigrants already in the United States — at reasonable wages for their openings. If they can’t find qualified US workers, then employers can ask the Department of Labor for permission to hire foreign guest workers on H-2B visas. Documents show that hiring managers at the Trump establishments made the minimum efforts required by law to recruit US workers.

While many businesses may truly struggle to find local workers and rely on foreign workers to fill slots, the hiring practices at Trump's properties certainly are out of step with his “America First” rhetoric and policies.

“If the president says ‘hire American,’ then the president’s businesses should hire American,” said Bruce Morrison, a Democrat and former Congress member from Connecticut who helped write the Immigration Act of 1990, which placed limits on the H-2B visa program.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for immigration restrictions, said he was “displeased” when Trump temporarily expanded the H-2B program in 2017. He said Mar-a-Lago is just using the program how other employers use it: as a way to avoid paying higher wages or offering more benefits to attract American workers.

“It’s a bullshit law written to ensure that employers don’t have to hire Americans,” said Krikorian, who normally applauds the president’s immigration agenda.

Mar-a-Lago hired dozens of foreign workers in 2017

Unemployment in the Miami area has been low in 2016 and 2017 (4.5 percent as of December 2017), and it’s harder for employers in South Florida to find workers now than a few years ago. But Vox spoke to several labor economists in the state who were nonetheless puzzled that hotels or clubs would have such a hard time finding any service workers to hire.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Tobias Pfutze, an economics professor at Florida International University in Miami. “I haven't heard anything about there being a labor shortage. The service labor market here is very flexible.”

In August 2017 alone, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach (Trump’s “winter White House”) sought permission to hire 70 servers, housekeepers, and cooks for eight months starting in October, according to recruitment reports submitted to the Department of Labor. In the paperwork, the club’s hiring manager explained the reason the club needed to hire temporary workers:

Our temporary need is defined as a peak-load need and stems from the fact that The Mar-a-Lago Club operates in accordance with a private charter and is open to the membership throughout the year but with a well defined peak season between the months of October and May of every year. The period during which the foreign national’s services are needed is not unpredictable, subject to change or considered to be a vacation period for our employees who are hired on a permanent basis.

Based on the paperwork submitted, the hiring manager fulfilled the minimum effort required by law to try to find American workers first: place an ad in the local newspaper for two days, notify past employees of the openings via US mail, and post the job notice in a visible place at the club for current employees to see. Employers are required to pay the average local wage for the advertised position. Mar-a-Lago offered $10.33 per hour for housekeepers, $13.43 for cooks, and $11.88 for servers (no tips).

After waiting the required month, the hiring manager at Mar-a-Lago reported that only seven US workers responded to the newspaper job ads, and that they were either unqualified, uninterested, or did not return calls.

Click here to read more in Vox.

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