President Donald Trump has been accused of engaging in a massive and long-running conspiracy to flout various federal laws concerning immigration, obtention of visas and human trafficking by one of the nation’s leading immigration law experts.
Immigration advocate David Leopold works as an attorney with DHS Watch and immigration law chair with Ulmer & Berne LLP. He also serves as a legal consultant to Anibal Romero, the attorney currently representing 25 undocumented former employees recently fired by the Trump Organization–after details of controversial employment practices at Trump’s New Jersey golf club were made public in a series of stories by The New York Times and Washington Post.
“[The] Washington Post exposé details a decades long multi-state criminal conspiracy perpetrated by the President of the United States to violate immigration, visa, and trafficking laws,” Leopold said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. “It’s shocking to realize that, as he demonized undocumented immigrants as a candidate, Trump was in the midst of an illegal scheme to recruit, employ and exploit undocumented workers.”
As Law&Crime previously noted in a run-down, the Post story goes into the extent and regularity of the controversial employment practices at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, calling the combined scheme “a long-running pipeline of illegal workers.”
Law&Crime also spoke with Leopold over the phone. He outlined a series of federal statutes that he says were likely violated by the Trump Organization’s hiring and labor practices.
Leopold noted that trafficking under 8 U.S.C. § 1324 is likely implicated by the latest report–as well as various forms of conspiracy and procurement of false documents under that same statute. There’s also alleged visa fraud and concealment of such forgeries under 18 U.S.C. § 1546.
Those statutes, Leopold noted, would likely subject Trump Organization employees to years in prison and thousands of dollars in civil penalties.
“The managers at Bedminster knew,” Leopold said. “There were only a handful of them and they knew. The Washington Post piece creates a whole new level of criminality going back decades. If the president wasn’t involved in various other corruption probes, this would be 24-7 and it should be 24-7. Criminality is criminality. This would be a scandal if this was a private employer. But this is the president of the United States. It’s stunning.”
Leopold then went on to detail President Trump’s prior racist statements about Mexicans being criminals and rapists during the 2016 campaign.
“If you could take the term ‘hypocrisy’ and magnify it, you might get close to describing this president. Trump and his companies committed serious crimes and they don’t obey the law. Period.”
Then there are the alleged threats made against the various undocumented employees hired by Trump over the years.
Leopold said such allegations likely amount to forced labor violations under 18 U.S.C. § 1589:
Sandra Diaz and Victorina Morales say that if they complained then they would call authorities and have them deported. You’ve got elements of forced labor. You’ve got some serious problems here based on the detailed and credible statements of the four workers who came to Washington–Margarita Cruz and Gabriel Sedano–they’ve all offered very detailed testimony and statements. The Washington Post piece is a floodgate of testimony related to undocumented work. There’s all kinds of questions that it raises. Serious questions.
“And this detailed corroboration has been corroborated by scores of other witnesses–in multiple countries,” Leopold continued. “False documents, transportation of workers. You’ve got harboring issues, forced labor issues and trafficking issues–as well as evidence of clear pattern and practice of hiring and abusing undocumented workers. You’ve also got detailed descriptions of a hostile work environment–especially after Trump was inaugurated.”
“These are victims of crime,” Leopold explained. “It would be one thing if people worked somewhere for a period of time and their employer simply didn’t get around to checking their papers. You’ve got a pattern and practice of people internationally working to obtain cheap labor. Maybe there’s an innocent explanation but that’s why we have investigatory bodies.”
The immigrants who have come forward need to be protected, Leopold said, via either the “T” visa program–afforded to victims of human trafficking–or the “U” visa program which is given to victims of a crime who have suffered substantial abuse and agree to cooperate with law enforcement.
“DHS has the power to give [these immigrants] ‘continued presence’ right away as this investigation goes forward and as these workers seek counsel and apply for protective visas,” Leopold said.
Law&Crime reached out to the Trump Organization for comment on this story but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication. And, as of this writing, the Trump Organization has yet to address the latest set of claims in print–but earlier took issue with the initial New York Times report.
“We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices,” the company said in a statement in December. “If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately. We take this issue very seriously.”
[Image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images]