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Hypocrisy, Documented

The firing of undocumented workers at Trump's golf clubs just shows how the practice of employing immigrants without legal work papers is much more common than we might imagine. Such is life in the United States.
Jorge Ramos is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and news anchor for Univision
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Jorge Ramos interviewing Gabriel Sedano and Margarita Cruz, employees at Trump golf resorts. Crédito: Al Punto/Univision

It should come as no surprise that millions of undocumented immigrants work in the United States. But not only that — until recently, some of them worked at two, perhaps more, of President Donald Trump’s properties.

About a dozen undocumented immigrants worked at Trump’s golf clubs in Bedminster, New Jersey, and in Westchester County, New York, according to reporting by The New York Times and The Washington Post. The fact that undocumented immigrants were employed at the properties of a president who rose to the White House by criminalizing and attacking these very people — whom he calls “illegals” — is worth noting, of course. But the practice of employing undocumented immigrants is much more common than we might imagine.

There is no evidence that Trump himself knew undocumented immigrants were working at his clubs. However, two of these employees, both of whom worked at Trump’s Westchester club, told me in an interview that they had worked there for years and had never had any problems. Until they were fired.

“Did the company know you were undocumented?” I asked Gabriel Sedano, a Mexican immigrant who had worked in maintenance at the Westchester property since 2005.

“I think so,” Sedano said. “It was a very common practice at the club. You heard from friends and acquaintances that the management didn’t ask for many papers so as to do a thorough inspection. You just had to hand in some papers and it was very easy to get in. They didn’t ask further questions. I think they didn’t check them up.”

Margarita Cruz, who is originally from Puebla, Mexico, worked as a housekeeper at the Westchester golf club since 2010. She gave her account of what happened: “I believe [Trump] wanted to carry out a purge before the government cracked down. He is just cleaning up. He has always said he does not want undocumented immigrants working for him. And now, if the government finally inspects all his employees’ documents, as it should, of course they won’t find anything, because he has already fired all of us.”

The president’s son, Eric Trump, who has day-to-day control of Trump’s properties, explained the dismissal of the workers to the Post as follows: “We are making a broad effort to identify any employee who has given false and fraudulent documents to unlawfully gain employment. Where identified, any individual will be terminated immediately.”

“The system is broken,” he concluded.

The fact that many undocumented immigrants worked at Trump’s properties for years isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that we pretend that this is something unusual. There are undocumented employees throughout the United States, and we all benefit from their labor; they harvest our food, build our houses and apartments and look after our children, taking on the jobs most of us reject.

It is deeply hypocritical for Americans to bad-mouth undocumented immigrants, given the benefits they provide to society. It would be extremely difficult to find a single American, including the president, whose life hasn’t been positively affected by these immigrants.

The United States, as everyone likes to say, is a nation of immigrants. Now, that national identity is under siege. Many Americans are frightened by the country’s demographic revolution (all Americans, no matter their background, will be part of a minority by 2044), and many would prefer that the country stop accepting so many immigrants, documented or undocumented, and instead become a nation of settlers and U.S. born citizens.

Trump and the other merciless critics attacking undocumented immigrants refuse to accept a simple fact: Every time they visit a restaurant, or stay in a hotel, they receive the services of one or more undocumented immigrants. Such is life in the United States.

Ideally, the 10.7 million undocumented immigrants that now live in the United States, according to 2016 data from the Pew Research Center, would gain legal status. Unfortunately, in our current political climate, this is impossible. Until we have a new president, we can only operate in Trump-survival mode.

In the meantime, Sedano and Cruz are hoping they don’t get deported. “We have committed no crime,” Sedano told me. “We are hardworking people. There are many people like us.”