A Visa Ban—But Not For Trump’s Foreign Workers

Trump’s own businesses, which rely on immigrant labor, won’t be affected by the visa restrictions proposed in a new draft executive order.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Lest you think Donald Trump is through targeting immigrants, a new draft executive order suggests the president is interested in making life harder for legal, working immigrants, the businesses that want to hire them, and the average Americans who have been shown to benefit from the higher wages and economic stability that unskilled immigrant workers provide.

The vaguely worded order, first published by The Washington Post, proposes the elimination of the “jobs magnet” that is supposedly attracting immigrants and harming American workers. But one thing is clear about President Trump’s proposed order: The Trump Empire won’t be affected.

In a continuation of candidate Trump’s “Fine for me, but not for thee,” approach, his “Executive Order on Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” contains nary a mention of the specific guest-worker visa programs that his companies have profited from for decades.

For as long as he’s been in business, Trump has relied on immigrants—both legal and without documentation—to build his towers, walk catwalks for his modeling agency, manage his hotels, clean his hotel rooms, pick grapes in his vineyard, cook meals in his clubs, wait tables at his restaurants, and tend to his golf course lawns.

Trump properties have asked the government to grant temporary visas to some 1,200 foreign workers since 2000, according to an investigation by Reuters last year and updated data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor. Most of these visas fell under the H-2A or the H-2B category, for seasonal workers.

In his campaign, President Trump ran on the promise that he would enforce a “requirement to hire American workers first,” railing against Disney and employers like it that “replace any worker with cheaper foreign labor.”

“It legalizes job theft,” Trump said in a 2015 interview with Breitbart News’s Steve Bannon. (Bannon is now President Trump’s chief strategist.) “It gives companies the legal right to pass over Americans, displace Americans, or directly replace Americans for good-paying middle-class jobs.”

Despite Trump’s claims that Americans didn’t want the jobs Trump was offering to immigrants, a 2016 report in The New York Times showed that since 2010 some 300 Americans had applied to the positions that ultimately went to foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago, the exclusive Palm Beach club President Trump has dubbed his “Winter White House.”

According to Trump, all of those American applicants “weren’t qualified, for some reason.”

But a month after his win, he tweeted his dedication to the policy: “My Administration will follow two simple rules: BUY AMERICAN and HIRE AMERICAN!” Then in January, Trump winery was granted approval for six Mexican workers to tend to the grapes for $10.72 an hour.

And that’s just when Trump was playing by the rules.

In 1980, Trump built his eponymous Manhattan golden tower on the backs of some 200 undocumented Polish immigrants working round-the-clock with no overtime to demolish the space where the behemoth now stands. Trump lost a case brought by the workers years later, and eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.

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But his reliance on undocumented workers didn’t end there. A July report from The Washington Post revealed some of the workers responsible for renovating D.C.’s Old Post Office Pavilion to make way for Trump’s new $200 million hotel had crossed the Mexican border and were in the country illegally. In a comment, longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen said the responsibility to legally hire workers fell to the contractor, not Trump himself.

And while Trump Model Management over the years has sought visas for some 250 models—some of whom could be included in the proposed sweeping order—four women formerly represented by Trump Models told Mother Jones they had been encouraged to work illegally in the U.S. and lie to customs officials about the reason for their visits in the States. (Neither Trump nor Trump Model Management responded to the story’s claims.)

Should the draft order actually go into effect, the workers Trump relies on to skirt immigration law and the ones who take seasonal employment from American applicants shouldn’t be bothered. According to an analysis by Matthew Yglesias at Vox, the measure would focus on shortening the number of months a foreigner on a student visa would be allowed to work after graduation, tightening restrictions on companies that use H-1B visas (the kind Melania Trump was once issued) for technically skilled foreign workers making it “more merit based,” and crackdown on lesser used visa categories.

In other words, the Trump organization is free to carry on as it likes. Just as it always has.