Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump runs the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, which is described on its website as “the greatest mansion ever built.” The exclusive private club is picky about who it grants membership to. Its hiring practices have also made headlines.
The club has had nearly 300 U.S. residents apply to work there as waiters, waitresses, cooks and housekeepers since 2010. Only 17 of those applicants have been hired -- the rest of the positions were filled by so-called “foreign guest workers” using H-program visas, which Trump has spoken out against on the campaign trail. According to The New York Times, Trump has pursued more than 500 visas for foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago since 2010.
Trump has defended his use of immigrant workers in the past, telling MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in September that “getting help in Palm Beach during the season is almost impossible.”
Despite his reasoning, Trump told Breitbart that, as president, he “will not issue any H-1B visas to companies that replace American workers and my Department of Justice will pursue action against them.”
He added: “It’s a disaster. It would allow any company in America to replace any worker with cheaper foreign labor. It legalizes job theft. It gives companies the legal right to pass over Americans, displace Americans, or directly replace Americans for good-paying middle class jobs. More than 80 percent of these H-1Bs are paid less than the average wage.”
Trump was right, many are concerned about the low wages and lack of job mobility offered by H-1B visas. Foreign laborers in the U.S. with that visa, which is the type used at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, can only be paid the “prevailing wage” for the job and location, but they can’t switch to other companies.
According to a 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office, many of these guest workers don’t speak up about their employers out of fear of retaliation.
“You almost have them as indentured servants,” said Danny Fontenot, director of the hospitality program at Palm Beach State College. “And they affect everyone else’s wages. You can make a lot of money by never having to give your employees raises.”
Trump has also said in the past that many of the American workers who interviewed were underqualified, although he said in the same Breitbart interview that “America produces the best and brightest in the world.”
Many locals in Palm Beach don’t buy Trump’s excuse, including Bonafacio Quevedo, who wasn’t hired at Trump International Golf Club in 2012, although he had worked as a waiter there and at Mar-a-Lago. “A lot of big establishments hire from foreign countries,” he said. “But there are a lot of local people looking for work.”