As a real estate tycoon, Donald Trump built up and has given his name to clothing lines, hotels, resorts, golf courses, a winery, and apartment buildings. And for a man who has unapologetically characterized Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, and has said that infectious diseases are spilling across the border, Trump has decided to work in industries where it’s impossible to avoid the Latino immigrants he is maligning.
A 2010 Current Population Survey found that more than 200,00 foreign-born workers work in the hospitality industry, nearly 1.2 million foreign-born workers hold construction occupations, and another 1.3 million foreign-born workers are employed in the food service industry. The data doesn’t break down the figures by nationality and legal status, though a Southern Poverty Law Center survey found that Latino immigrants are most often employed in construction, factory work, cleaning, and restaurant work.
A 2011 National Council of La Raza study corroborated those results, finding that nearly one in five employees in the accommodation industry is Latino. The group is also overrepresented in “nearly all the major service jobs in the accommodation industry,” the NCLR study stated.
For Trump, that overrepresentation of Latino laborers could very well mean that at least some of his workers are from the country that he’s made inflammatory remarks about. And if he took a stroll through some of the properties that he owns long after business hours are over, he might encounter many of these “good people“:
As the Washington Post reported this week, Trump relies on both undocumented and legal immigrants on the construction site of his hotel in Washington, D.C. Trump has also put undocumented immigrants on the payroll in the past. In the 1980s and 1990s, Trump was embroiled in a 15-year lawsuit for allegedly cheating 200 undocumented Polish immigrants out of meager wages and fringe benefits during the demolition of the building that preceded Trump Tower, the New York Times reported in 1998.
Trump doesn’t think it’s “crass” to tell people that he’s “really rich,” (he has a net worth anywhere between $4.1 billion and $8.7 billion), but his wealth isn’t solely from his own doing. He likely had help — as he currently does in D.C. — from immigrants like Ramon Alvarez, a window worker, who told the Washington Post, “Do you think that when we’re hanging out there from the eighth floor that we’re raping or selling drugs? We’re risking our lives and our health. A lot of the chemicals we deal with are toxic.”
A 2013 Center for Popular Democracy report found that the majority of construction site accident victims in New York State are Latinos and/or immigrant workers. Only 34 percent of all construction workers in New York state are Latino and/or an immigrant, but they comprise 60 percent of all OSHA-investigated “fall from an elevation fatalities” in the state. A 2008 Pew Hispanic study found that 17 percent of construction workers were undocumented.
Some of these workers are subject to wage theft. Fernando, an undocumented construction worker and painter, told ThinkProgress in March that he joined an union because “the contractor refused to pay me and they helped me get my money back.” He was also serious injured twice on the job, once in Galveston, Texas after Hurricane Ike.
Golf course maintenance workers
About 180,000 maintenance workers keep the nation’s 15,619 golf courses green and pristine across the country. As a four-part Golf Digest series documented, immigrants do most of the maintenance work on golf courses. “We get up early and try to stay out of the way,” one golf course worker told Golf Digest. “We don’t know anything about the players, and they don’t know anything about us.”
Most of the time, American workers just aren’t “willing to do those jobs,” Chava McKeel, the associate director of government relations for the GCSAA said.
“The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) estimates that two-thirds of the maintenance workforce is Latino, with the largest presence in California, Texas and Florida (85 percent), followed by the Northwest (50 percent) and the Midwest/Mideast (10 to 20 percent),” Golf Digest reported. A 2008 Cornell study backs up the findings, noting that superintendents responding to their survey indicated that “72 percent of their workforce at the peak of the season was Hispanic.”
The Trump organization owns seven golf courses throughout the country. The PGA of America said on Tuesday that the Grand Slam of Golf tournament won’t be played at the Los Angeles golf club.
The 2008 Pew Hispanic study found that about one in ten workers in the restaurant industry is an immigrant. Of those, about 20 percent of restaurant cooks and 30 percent of dishwashers are undocumented, Seattle’s KUOW reported.
Latinos are “disproportionately likely to be dishwashers, dining room attendants, or cooks, also relatively low-paid occupations,” an Economic Policy Institute report stated last year. The study also found that “one in six restaurant workers, or 16.7 percent, live below the official poverty line” while “more than two in five restaurant workers, or 43.1 percent, live below twice the poverty line.”
Restaurateur and TV star Anthony Bourdain told the Houston Press in 2007, “It is undeniable…I know very few chefs who’ve even heard of a U.S.-born citizen coming in the door to ask for a dishwasher, night clean-up or kitchen prep job.”
Though Trump is mainly in the hotel business, his establishments have restaurants, like the Trump Grill located in the atrium of the Trump Tower and The Terrace at Trump Chicago. However, his recent comments are threatening to derail plans for a new restaurant at the planned Trump International Hotel in D.C. At least 2,510 people have already signed a petition asking Chef Jose Andres to back out of working at the restaurant.
According to the 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 36,700 Latinos working in the building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, such as janitors, maids and housekeepers, pest control workers, and grounds maintenance staff. There are also an additional 25,100 hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks who identify as Latino.
A 2009 study of workers across 50 U.S. hotels found that Latino women are twice as likely to be injured as white house keepers and 1.5 times more likely to be injured than men. The New York Times reported that housekeepers have a high injury rate since they have to do repetitive tasks, lift heavy mattresses, and work quickly to clean rooms.
“I have worked as a housekeeper for about 13 years. I work in pain constantly. My body aches all over, but most of all my back from bending and lifting throughout the day,” one housekeeper who worked at a Hyatt hotel said, according to a Work Safe report.
Unlike Trump, some conservative hoteliers have recognized the necessity of immigrant workers. J.W. Bill Marriott, then CEO and now Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Marriott International, has called for immigration reform several times in 2007, 2010, and again in 2012.