Amid the ongoing immigration crisis in the U.S., President Donald Trump claimed this week that he “didn’t know” that his own properties had hired numerous undocumented migrants as long-time employees.
Asked specifically about undocumented employees at Trump’s numerous golf clubs, Trump pleaded ignorance to The New York Times on Friday.
“I don’t know because I don’t run it,” Trump said when asked about the immigration status of workers at his golf resorts. “But I would say this: Probably every club in the United States has that because it seems to be — from what I understand — a way that people did business.”
Trump’s claim comes amid revelations about a humanitarian crisis within America’s sprawling detentions centers. It also comes shortly after the Trump Organization announced it had fired nearly two dozen undocumented employees from golf courses in both New York and New Jersey. (The Trump Organization also announced it would now be using E-Verify, a governmental system providing information on employees’ legal status.)
Despite Trump’s claims, many of the fired employees, who included maids and groundskeepers, claimed the Trump Organization knew for years about their legal status, but only fired them within the past several months.
One former employee, an undocumented migrant from Guatemala, told CBS News that her bosses at the Trump National Gold Club in New Jersey “knew she was not authorized to live in the U.S. but hired her anyway.”
Now, some of those fired are requesting a sit-down meeting with Trump himself — a meeting the White House apparently has little interest in entertaining.
In a two-page letter addressed directly to Trump, some 21 former employees — all of whom are undocumented — called on the president to meet with them directly to discuss their situation.
We are writing to respectfully request a meeting with you. We are modest people who represent the dreams of the 11 million undocumented men, women and children who live and work in this country. We love America and want to talk to you about helping to give us a chance to become legal.
We know you and your family; we worked very hard to make your clubs a success and to keep your members and visitors happy. You know many of us and will recall how hard we worked for you, your family and your golf clubs. We all took great pride in our hard work and years of service to make your clubs successful.
You know we are hard workers and that we are not criminals or seeking a free ride in America. We all pay our taxes, love our faith and our family, and simply want to find a place for ourselves to make America even better.
But the White House is in no rush to welcome the former employees to a meeting with the president. The signatories received a letter from the White House on Wednesday, noting that they were “reviewing” the letter.
The letter, and Trump’s denials, come amid escalating showdowns between the federal government and undocumented migrants trying to remain in the U.S.
As ThinkProgress reported earlier this week, some undocumented migrants have begun receiving letters ordering the migrants to pay fines for staying in the country. Those letters parallel Trump’s recent threats to work around a Supreme Court ruling and directly impose questions about citizenship on the upcoming 2020 census — and as conditions at detention centers continue to deteriorate.
As ThinkProgress’s Joshua Eaton wrote on Friday:
[C]onditions on the nation’s southwest border boiled over this week, after the Associated Press revealed squalid conditions at a shelter for migrant children near El Paso, Texas; a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found that Customs and Border Protection is holding immigrants in cells that are nearly double their capacity, and that children at some CBP facilities lack access to showers and laundry; and ProPublica revealed a secret Facebook group for Border Patrol agents that included sexist memes about members of Congress and jokes about migrant children dying in CBP custody.
Meanwhile, the threat of deportation hangs over the former Trump employees’ heads.
“We believe you have a heart and will do the right thing to find a home for us here in America,” they wrote in their letter, “so that we can step out of the shadows and not deport us and our friends and family.”