President Donald Trump’s companies in 2018 hired more foreign workers than they have in years — perhaps decades — marking a stark contrast between Trump’s dual roles: the nativist politician demanding a 30-foot border wall and calling for U.S. companies to “hire American” and the businessman seeking cheap, seasonal labor.
Even as the Trump administration sought to crack down on work visas, his companies hired 192 foreign workers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, including 78 at Mar-a-Lago, the South Florida resort where Trump doubled the membership fee shortly after he was elected.
The figure was first reported Thursday by Talking Points Memo based on research from American Bridge 21st Century.
And while the administration has been attempting to curb immigration as well as guest-worker programs, Trump himself has wondered aloud about expanding them, Tweeting support last week for the H1-B program: “We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S.”
H-1B visas allow employers to temporarily hire specialized workers.
The Trump companies, which are being run by Trump’s adult sons while he maintains ownership, steadily increased their reliance on foreign workers in recent years as their namesake built a political career attacking them.
“You better better be smart. They’re taking your jobs,” he said in 2014, a year when his companies sought 130 work visas, according to Labor Department data.
The companies — Mar-a-Lago, Trump Model Management Group, International Resorts Management, the Trump golf clubs in North Carolina, New Jersey and New York, and several others — requested 109 in 2015, 182 in 2016 and 144 in 2017.
More than 30 percent of the 1,686 visa requests the Trump companies have submitted since 2001 were submitted since Trump announced his presidential campaign in 2015.
Since taking office, Trump has railed against American companies that have closed factories or moved jobs overseas, most recently threatening to cut all “subsidies” to General Motors after it announced it would eliminate about 14,000 jobs in North America, most of them in the U.S.
But during the campaign, Trump dismissed charges of hypocrisy, saying he couldn’t find citizens to take those jobs.
“During the season, it’s very, very hard to get employees,” Trump told ABC News in July 2016. “We interview. And we have a lot of people. We come with a lotta people. But it’s very, very hard to get people in Palm Beach during the Palm Beach season. It’s called the ‘Palm Beach social season.’ And what we do is we sometimes have to bring people in.”
But that’s not what Labor Department records show.
Of the 300 U.S. residents applied for jobs at Mar-a-Lago between 2010 and 2016, only 17 were hired, The New York Times reported in 2016.
Trump has long relied on foreign labor.
At a Republican primary debate in 2016, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., accused Trump of hiring illegal immigrant laborers in the 1980s, referencing a group of undocumented Polish workers he hired to demolish a site where he would build Trump Tower in New York.
“Fined $1 million for hiring Polish workers on one of his projects,” Rubio said. “He did it. That happened.”
Last month, The New York Times reported that employees hired at Trump’s club in Bedminster, N.J., in recent years were undocumented — and that the club’s management were aware.