Legal Analysis

Trump Personally Employs Undocumented Immigrants? That May Be a Federal Crime

President Donald Trump has long employed undocumented immigrants at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to a New York Times report. This arrangement may run afoul of federal law.

A mid-afternoon Thursday exposé identified two of the undocumented women by name.

Victorina Morales, the report notes, has made Trump’s bed, “cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies.” The second woman, Sandra Diaz, no longer works at the golf club but had similar duties during her three-plus years there.

Per the Times:

[Diaz] said she washed and ironed Mr. Trump’s white boxers, golf shirts and khaki trousers, as well as his sheets and towels. Everything belonging to Mr. Trump, his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, was washed with special detergent in a smaller, separate washing machine, she said.

Substantial media attention has focused on the stark divide between Trump’s personal employment of undocumented immigrants compared to his campaign rhetoric and governing priorities. Morales herself noted that disconnect.

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she told the Times. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

Aside from the disconnect between the Trump administration’s approach to illegal immigration and the apparent reality at his club, there could be a federal crime afoot here, too.

Let’s take a look at federal law. The statute on point here is contained at 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(3)(a) and reads, in relevant part:

Any person who, during any 12-month period, knowingly hires for employment at least 10 individuals with actual knowledge that the individuals are aliens…shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.

One relevant inquiry here would be how many undocumented immigrants were–or are–employed by Trump at Bedminster during the above time period.

The more pressing–and arguably more interesting–concern here is whether Trump or his underlings could be shown to have had “actual knowledge” of the maids’ (or other employees’) undocumented status. The report suggests that at least a few people at the golf course knew.

Again, the Times:

“There are many people without papers,” said Ms. Diaz, who said she witnessed several people being hired whom she knew to be undocumented…

Ms. Morales expects she will have to leave her job as soon as her name and work status are made public. She understands she could be deported. But she also says she is certain that her employers — perhaps even Mr. Trump — knew of her unlawful status all along.

“I ask myself, is it possible that this señor thinks we have papers? He knows we don’t speak English,” Ms. Morales said. “Why wouldn’t he figure it out?”

Other parts of the Times report allege that higher-ups at Bedminster were absolutely aware of their employees’ undocumented status. Morales explicitly claims that some of those higher-ups conspired to help certain employees obtain forged immigration and work documentation–including herself.

These facts could support an extended inquiry into the knowledge of Bedminster officials–if not the 45th president himself. With an emboldened Democratic House majority dedicated to investigating anything that smells like corruption emanating from the Trump White House, this report may be just another source of ammunition for the Congressional subpoena mill.

[Image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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