Questions scrutinizing the hiring of undocumented immigrants at his luxury residential buildings are “pretty pathetic to be honest,” Donald Trump said Wednesday in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Trump also said he “can’t guarantee” that he doesn’t have undocumented immigrants working at his hotel projects since, as he claimed, there are anywhere between 11 and 34 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
Responding to a recent Washington Post article finding that some workers at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. are undocumented, Trump demanded names so that he could fire the workers.
The interview took place at Trump Tower in New York City, where 200 undocumented Polish immigrants reportedly helped demolish and construct his building decades ago.
Cooper asked if it was “hypocritical” that Trump has painted Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers given that he was involved in a 35-year-old lawsuit by those Polish immigrants, who alleged wage theft. “Anderson, when you have to go back 35 years to tell me about something, I think that’s pretty pathetic, to be honest with you,” Trump replied.
When Cooper pressed him on the immigration status of his employees, the real estate mogul said he couldn’t be sure.
“I can’t guarantee it. How can anyone? You have anywhere from 11 to 34 million illegal immigrants. I used to hear 11, now I hear 34 million!” Trump said. “I can’t guarantee anything. But I can say this, We work very hard to make sure that everybody is legal as opposed to illegal.”
In other parts of the CNN interview, Trump said that some of the undocumented immigrant population could come from the Middle East. Trump also told Cooper that it was “too early to say” whether he would grant a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants. However, he hinted that he would likely go as far as granting them legal status, but insisted that he would build an “impenetrable” border wall that Mexico would have to pay.
Trump may shrug off the question about hiring practices, but the industries on which he’s built his wealth is overrepresented by Latinos and Latino immigrants. Regardless of whether Trump knows it, Latino immigrants are the ones who consistently stay on the job and deal with low wages, sometimes with dire consequences. Latinos make up the highest percentage of construction site accident victims. Latino women are also twice as likely to be injured as white house keepers and 1.5 times more likely to be injured than men.
Over the past month, Trump has unleashed a series of baldly nativist comments about Mexican immigrants, angering many Latinos and immigrant advocates in the process. As a presidential candidate, Trump is unexpectedly performing well with Republican voters, placing second place in a Quinnipiac poll, a CNN-WMUR poll, and a CNN-ORC poll. Trump told NBC News that he would “win the Latino vote,” a comment that has led to endless jeering from Latino strategists.
In an hour-long phone call Wednesday night, Chairman Reince Priebus asked Trump to rein in his comments on immigration.