FBI examining whether undocumented immigrants worked at Trump’s golf club, lawyer says

Lawyer for five immigrants says New Jersey state attorney officials and FBI agents met with him to discuss allegations

Emily Wax-Thibodeau
Sunday 30 December 2018 14:36
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Federal and state investigators are scrutinising the employment documents of immigrants without legal status who allegedly worked at President Donald Trump’s golf club in New Jersey, according to their attorney.

Anibal Romero, a Newark attorney who represents five undocumented immigrants who say they worked at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, said in an interview on Saturday he met with investigators from the New Jersey state attorney general’s office and two FBI agents in November, before the workers began to go public with their stories.

Mr Romero said he turned over fake green cards and social security numbers that supervisors at the golf club allegedly gave one of his clients, Victorina Morales, a 44-year-old Guatemalan national. He also gave investigators the pay stubs of Sandra Diaz, a Costa Rican native who now has legal status but said she was undocumented when she worked at the club for three years.

The FBI agents told him they would “coordinate” with the New Jersey state attorney general’s office, Mr Romero said.

The materials collected by law enforcement agencies, first reported by the New York Daily News, indicate investigators may be launching a probe into the hiring practices of the president’s golf club.

A spokesperson for New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the office’s policy is “to neither confirm nor deny investigations.” The FBI declined to comment.

Trump Organisation officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms Morales and Ms Diaz first went public in interviews with the New York Times earlier this month. Ms Morales said she had worked at the Bedminster club for the last five years – even making Mr Trump’s bed and ironing the president’s clothes at times. She told the Times that managers at the club had taken steps to help her evade detection as an undocumented worker.

“The important point that I think has been left out is that Americans think these hard-working women get these jobs on their own – that’s not what happened,” Mr Romero said. “People employed by the golf club recruited her and made her the phony documents.”

In an interview on Saturday, Ms Morales said she decided to come forward in part to highlight Mr Trump’s “hypocrisy.”

As president, Mr Trump has pushed hard-line immigration policies and has insisted on $5bn (£3.9bn) in funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border, which has caused a partial shutdown of the federal government. He has sought to make it harder for migrants to obtain asylum and backed a policy that has led to the detention of immigrant children separated from their parents.

Trump Organisation officials have declined to comment on the specific allegations about Bedminster’s hiring practices. But spokesperson Amanda Miller, responding to questions about the case earlier this month, said in a statement: “We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices. If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately.”

Mr Romero said he first contacted the office of special counsel Robert S Mueller III in late October seeking guidance on the workers’ allegations. Several weeks later, he received a call from the FBI, Mr Romero said.

“The agent told me that he had received a referral from Robert Mueller’s office and that he had been briefed on the case and he wanted to meet with me in person,” Mr Romero said.

A spokesperson for Mr Mueller declined to comment.

Ms Morales said she left Guatemala, where she worked as a corn farmer, and entered the United States illegally in 1999. She said she started working at the Bedminster club in 2013.

During her interview at the club, Ms Morales said she was told “her status didn’t matter.”

Ms Morales said she decided to come forward because she was receiving abusive comments from a supervisor, who she said called her stupid and pushed her against a wall. The supervisor said because she was not documented and worked for the president, she could not do anything about it, Ms Morales said.

“I was humiliated. I just wanted to come out of the shadows,” she said. “I was trapped and threatened with deportation if I spoke out against my boss, who was so abusive. No one should be treated this way in the United States of America.”

Ms Morales was also upset by Mr Trump’s comments about Latin American immigrants being criminals. She said the president was “demanding, but sometimes tipped with a $50 or $100 bill.” She was making $10 an hour.

She is still paid by the golf club but stopped going to work after her story was made public, her attorney said.

The Washington Post

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