Brief #63—Immigration

Trump Golf has employed a steady stream of illegal immigrants for years, but explained it away as the Trump Organization being a separate entity run by Trump’s eldest sons and having nothing to do with the President.

However there is no dispute that Trump’s “golf course was built by illegals,” claims a former employee. Supervisors have gone to lengths to conceal and shield illegal staff from being vetted by the secret service.  Trump’s golf course employees have been part of a network of  nearly 8 million unauthorized immigrants in the labor force, especially in the service sector and it has been sort of an “open secret” that unauthorized immigrants are a widely sought source of “cheap labor”. Employers in the service sector find that “undocumented workers often work the unpleasant, back breaking jobs that native born workers are not willing to do.” Many immigrants apply for jobs with fraudulent immigration papers or fake cards (like permanent resident, social security, etc)., yet are often equipped with an Individual Taxpayer Identification number that is issued by the IRS to foreigners to enable them to file taxes without being permanent residents.

Trump Golf has 19 properties all over the world, with 3 levels of membership and initiation fees begin at $200,000 (this increased by $100,000 when Trump was elected President in 2016). The original location was a 128-room mansion in Palm Beach that Trump bought in 1985 and turned into a private club in 1995; where annual fees now start at $14,000 with a minimum annual food spending of $2,000. In 2014, Trump made $15.6 Million from the club alone. All prospective members must be sponsored by an existing member and that member has to set up an appointment to connect the individuals – similar to the prestigious Soho House. Interestingly, there is no established comprehensive process for tracking visitors to the private club. Needless to say, a membership at any of the Trump resorts is financially only available to the extremely wealthy. There are currently nearly 500 paying members including real estate developers, wall street financiers, and energy executives, to name a few.

There has been no official evidence that Trump or the Trump organization were aware some of their employees were illegal citizens, but in 2018 the New Jersey club hired people who were in the country illegally and allegedly club managers were well aware of this fact. During President Trump’s campaign, he boasted about using E-Verify, an electronic verification system used to ensure that only individuals legally authorized to work in the US were hired. So how did this handful of illegal immigrants slip through the cracks? Previous employees said there was a two-tier system of employment, those who were legal and received benefits like health insurance and those who did not because they were illegal. Though on the surface, Eric Trump (President Trump’s son and the Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization) responded to CNN stating the organization was making a large effort to identify employees hired under false pretenses and terminate them immediately, citing this as an example of why his father is working so hard for immigration reform since the system is broken. Thus, in January, nearly a dozen employees were summoned to a meeting at the Westchester club and then fired – even some who had worked at the club for more than a decade.

When Trump Golf originally opened its doors, it welcomed Jewish members, African-American members and gay couples who were banned from joining other Palm Beach clubs at the time, making for a geographically, religiously and ethnically diverse group – which seems a bit disconnected to Trump’s current policies. While the Trump Organization has gone out of its way to distinguish itself from the Trump White House, one cannot help but ponder the possibility that when it comes to business, exceptions are made to Trump’s routinely racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic remarks.

The individuals who have been recently released from Trump Golf – after many years – and chosen to come forth with their experiences paint a confusing and contradictory picture. Many are tired of the routine insults, neglect and disregard; while some account for normal and pleasant interactions with President Trump, even noting he is a big tipper. How can someone be persistently prejudice, yet turn a blind eye when it comes to business? Despite the lack of a clear connection between Trump Organization managers who were aware of employees hired under ‘false pretenses’ and the Executives (Trump’s sons) and Trump himself, it is plausible to think that those involved individuals just chose to turn a blind eye for the sake of the business. The reports that supervisors had gone out of their way to essentially protect their employees who could face dire legal repercussions for being in the country illegally makes it difficult to believe that Trump and his sons did not know.

Resistance Resources

  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • an organization that aims to promote the tech community to support policies that keep the American Dream alive. They specifically and currently focus on immigration reform.

This Brief was authored by Kathryn Baron. For inquiries, suggestions or comments email

Photo by unsplash-logoMichele De Paola


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