Trump's winery exposed for hiring and exploiting undocumented immigrants

Trump's winery exposed for hiring and exploiting undocumented immigrants
ABC News
Human Rights

Undocumented immigrants have kept Donald Trump’s businesses running, from his numerous golf clubs to his winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, a Univision investigation has found. “Univision News interviewed seven undocumented employees who claim to have worked producing Trump wine in the state of Virginia, putting in long hours from sunrise to sunset, without overtime pay.”

Trump Winery, owned by Trump and operated by his son Eric, already has a noted history of using foreign workers, requesting nearly two dozen work visas as recently as January. But Univision’s investigation finds the winery has also exploited undocumented immigrant labor, both in the vineyard itself and in the hotel on the grounds.

"There was no overtime, at least when I worked, no benefits either,” said Martha Peña, who worked in the hotel. “If you got sick they didn't pay you." She said that her days often started as early as 7 o’clock and that she never knew how late they would last. Her cousin Marlly said she was never asked for paperwork when she started working there in 2015. She had hoped for a good wage, but ended up being paid $3 less than at her previous job.

Workers said vineyard management “pretends not to know” they’re hiring undocumented immigrants. "Yes, they know you are undocumented, because if you look at the Social Security papers that are handed to them, they’re false. The process is simple. They give you your application, and they find a way for you to fill it out.”

“The workers were left with a bitter taste of the vineyard,” Univision News continued. “All of the former employees interviewed by Univision have resigned not because of problems related to their immigration status, but because they say they no longer could put up with the work conditions.” Undocumented workers at Trump’s other businesses, such as his golf clubs, have said management has known damn well they don’t have documentation, and in some cases have even helped them get fake papers. Some have alleged physical and verbal abuse. 

The reality here is that industries across the U.S.—including Trump’s hotels, golf courses, and vineyards—rely on undocumented labor. What makes his hypocrisy all the more disgusting is that he campaigns on their backs, demonizes them and their families for electoral gain, and then enjoys the fruits of their labor, like freshly mowed greens, when he goes on his golfing weekends.

He’s certainly being aided in this exploitation by his cronies in the administration. During recent testimony to Congress, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan suggested “that Trump's hiring of undocumented workers is small fry and below the law,” immigrant rights group America’s Voice said, no matter that investigative reporting from The Washington Post has described a “pipeline” of undocumented workers from Costa Rica to Trump's New Jersey golf club.

“This is a man who has built his political brand on dehumanizing and degrading immigrants, equating them as criminals and murderers on par with terrorists wishing harm to America,” said attorney Anibal Romero, who represents several Trump workers. “Nothing could be further from the truth about these hard-working people who fled violence, corruption and poverty to seek a better life for their children. I would expect every American family would do the same under the circumstances.”

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