President Donald Trump, whose policies have consistently (and inaccurately) cast immigrants as a group that “takes jobs and benefits away from hardworking Americans” (his most recent tweet, using this exact phrasing, went out a scant 17 hours ago), has filed a request with the Department of Labor asking permission to hire 61 foreign workers as temporary cooks and front-of-house servers at his for-profit, Palm Beach, Florida Mar-a-Lago resort.
The request for 21 cooks and 40 front-of-house employees, for an employment window of October 2018 to May 2019, is under the controversial H-2 visa for temporary workers, which allows employers to fill non-agricultural roles for which there “are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.” (Framed another way, application for said visa suggests that the Trump Organization, which runs Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties, believes that there are no local American citizens “able, willing, and qualified” for the seasonal cook and server jobs.)
According to Department of Labor filings, servers in that temporary role would be paid $12.68 per hour, with cooks receiving $13.31 per hour. Annual membership to Mar-a-Lago costs $14,000 per year, not counting a $200,000 initiation fee.
It’s not the first time properties bearing Trump’s name have hired foreign workers under the H-2 program. In 2017, just days after Trump’s Department of Homeland Security raised the cap on the overall number of available H-2 visas, the president’s properties filed a request for 76 of those visas to hire cooks, servers, and housekeepers. Buzzfeed counts that since the launch of Trump’s presidential campaign in June 2015, “businesses owned by him or bearing his name have sought to hire more than 480 foreign guest workers, including more than 240 for Mar-a-Lago.” Earlier this year, Trump Winery, owned by the president’s son Eric, filed a H-2 request for 23 foreign workers.
And at Mar-a-Lago specifically, a 2016 report by the New York Times found the Trump Organization “pursued more than 500 visas for foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago since 2010,” while “only 17” U.S. residents were hired during that same time period. Those 17 hired employees represented 6% of the total local applicants.
Not surprisingly, use of the H-2 visa, regardless of what business files for it, is controversial: Unions have long argued that local American workers are likely both “willing and qualified” to take the temporary roles. But Trump properties’ reliance on the visa is particularly egregious given an immigrant reform platform that has called Mexican immigrants’ “effects on jobseekers... disastrous,” and claims to institute a “requirement to hire American workers first.” (It also implores American “companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed.”) Such rhetoric, which that argues “a nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation” — specifically when it comes to access to jobs — has fueled policies that have split up families at the border and denied entry to those seeking asylum.
Meanwhile, for those workers who will eventually be hired at Mar-at-Lago for the winter season, take heed: “overtime [pay is] possible but not guaranteed.”
• Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida seeks to hire 61 foreign workers [WaPo]
• Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Wants To Hire 40 More Foreign Workers [Buzzfeed]
• Trump lifted the cap on H-2B worker visas. Then his businesses asked for 76 of them. [Vox]