Despite its founder’s strict stance against illegal immigration, the Trump Organization has employed at least several undocumented workers over the years, according to the New York Times.
The publication was allegedly contacted by two immigrants, Sandra Diaz, 46, and Victorina Morales, 45 — the former of whom worked at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, from 2010-13 and the latter of whom is still on the payroll there. The women told stories of being hired using fake documentation after crossing the border illegally, Morales from Guatemala in 1999 and Diaz from Costa Rica. Diaz has since become a legal resident of the U.S.
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The Times reported Morales has provided such “outstanding” work as a housekeeper that she received an achievement certificate from the White House Communications Agency with her name on it back in July. Over her five years in the role, she’s made Donald Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his trophies. She also was once instructed to wear an American flag pin with the Secret Service logo on it.
Diaz was also a part of the cleaning, landscaping and maintenance staff, which she told the outlet included a number of other undocumented workers. Neither she nor Morales was sure of the exact number, but they did believe there were “many.” The New Jersey property has between 40 and 80 employees depending on the season, most of whom were not born in the U.S., according to The Times.
The Times clarified that there’s no evidence the Trump Organization was aware of these employees’ immigration status, and in a statement obtained by PEOPLE, a spokesperson for Trump’s company said: “We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices. If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately.”
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The White House did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Diaz recounted several stories about working for the president, which included good tips, very meticulous cleaning practices, and a time he reprimanded her about an orange stain on his white golf shirt which she said was from his makeup and would not wash out. After training Morales, Diaz quit in November 2013.
Morales, who has only two years of education and didn’t speak any English when she first arrived in the U.S, also told the Times how she’s bustled around cleaning while Trump watched television nearby, and she’s been in the same room as cabinet members, including chief of staff John Kelly. Trump often gave her tips of $50 and $100 on her $13-an-hour paycheck.
“I never imagined, as an immigrant from the countryside in Guatemala, that I would see such important people close up,” she said.
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A story where Trump helped her clean the top of some glass windows because she’s barely 5 ft. has also stuck with her. Then, after asking her where she was from, he told her Guatemalans are hard workers.
However, things changed once he launched his presidential campaign. At first, she was told she could no longer work in his residence, and after the January 2017 inauguration, she received a new employee handbook that required her to present documents as specified by the federal government. She allegedly talked to her manager at the time about obtaining new forgeries, and he directed her to another maintenance worker, who helped her. She’s since been allowed to clean the president’s house a few more times.
Trump’s words about undocumented workers have taken a toll on Morales, she said, especially when he compares Latino immigrants to violent criminals. That, along with insults about her heritage from her supervisor, prompted her to speak out, she told the Times.
“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 said. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”
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Morales also told the outlet that she’s aware she could be fired or deported because of her remarks, but she’s seeking asylum and considering suing the Trump Organization for abuse and discrimination. She also said she’s confident her superiors — maybe even all the way up to the club’s owner — knew of her immigration status.
“I ask myself, is it possible that this señor thinks we have papers? He knows we don’t speak English,” Morales said. “Why wouldn’t he figure it out?”
According to The Times, the hiring of undocumented immigrants, especially in the service industry, is an open secret in the U.S. Some 8 million have jobs across the country.
In 2017, the president took steps to curb this practice with his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. Still, the Times reported his companies have hired “hundreds of foreigners” on guest-worker visas.
Cracking down on illegal immigration has been a tentpole of the Trump presidency, from attempts to build walls dividing the southern border of the U.S. from Mexico and the use of tear gas on children in the controversial migrant caravan.
In an interview on Thanksgiving, Trump told reporters, “If they have to, [U.S. Border Patrol is] going to use lethal force. I’ve given the okay … I hope they don’t have to.”