Meet the Undocumented Immigrant Who Spent Five Years as Trump’s Housekeeper

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is calling on the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to investigate whether employees at Trump National Golf Club broke the law by helping undocumented employees obtain fake work papers amid news reports that the Trump company has fired at least 18 undocumented workers from five golf courses in New York and New Jersey in the past two months. On Monday, Menendez called on the federal government to allow former undocumented employees of the Trump properties to remain in the country while the investigation proceeds. We speak with an undocumented housekeeper from Guatemala named Victorina Morales, who helped expose what was happening on the Trump properties by speaking on the record to The New York Times. Morales spent years making Donald Trump’s bed and performing other duties at his New Jersey club, even though she was undocumented. She attended the State of the Union as a guest of Democratic Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is calling on the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to investigate whether employees at Trump National Golf Club broke the law by helping undocumented employees obtain fake work papers. On Monday, Senator Menendez called on the federal government to allow former undocumented employees of the Trump properties to remain in the country while the investigation proceeds.

This comes amid news reports that the Trump company has fired at least 18 undocumented workers from five golf courses in New York and New Jersey in the past two months, part of a purge set in motion after a series of reports about the clubs’ employment of workers without legal status.

AMY GOODMAN: In December, an undocumented housekeeper from Guatemala named Victorina Morales helped expose what was happening on the Trump properties, by speaking on record to The New York Times. Morales spent years making Donald Trump’s bed and performing other duties at his New Jersey club, even though she was undocumented.

Well, on Tuesday, Morales had a chance to see her former boss in person, when she attended the State of the Union, where Trump railed against undocumented immigrants, claiming, quote, “large organized caravans are on the march to the United States,” unquote, and incorrectly suggested undocumented immigrants threaten the economic well-being of other Americans. Victorina Morales attended the State of the Union as a guest of New Jersey Democratic Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman.

I spoke to both of them on Wednesday. I began by asking Congresswoman Watson Coleman why she brought Victorina to the State of the Union.

REP. BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN: Number one is, she really is the honest face of immigrants. She is the hard-working, trustworthy, just wanting a better life for her family, not causing any trouble, paying her taxes, becoming a part of the community and just doing her job. And this is the real face, I believe, of immigrants, and even illegal immigrants, seeking asylum or seeking a better way of life here in the United States of America; contrasting that to what the president has said, that we should fear illegal immigration, that we need to build a wall to keep them out, to keep us safe, and laid upon lies as to who they are and what they are.

And it shows the hypocrisy of Donald Trump the president and Donald Trump the entrepreneur, because the entrepreneur not only hired undocumented immigrants, his organization found them documents that would be used to put into their file so that they could work there. And it wasn’t until after he became a nominee for president that they decided that the documents that they had already had on behalf of these workers wasn’t sufficient, so they arranged for them to get even new fraudulent documents that would look better—but were still fraudulent. And so, he had this environment where he hired illegal immigrants. He gave them no benefits. He did not pay them good salaries. And the environment there was so hostile that when they complained about anything, they were basically told to “shut up, or you’ll get into trouble.” So, it just documents the hypocrisy of the Donald Trump that’s president and the Donald Trump that still holds his interests in his businesses.

AMY GOODMAN: Victorina Morales, what was it like to be sitting there last night at the State of the Union address, seeing your former boss, President Trump, talking about undocumented immigrants?

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] He’s a total hypocrite. It’s a hypocrisy, because he always talks badly about immigrants. We accept that he is a horrible person. He’s very aggressive concerning us. And I ask God that at least the Congress people listen to us. We are raising our voice. I thank them for that. In this country, there are many good people. There are many people who love us. There are many people who are helping us.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us your story, Victorina? Tell us how you came to work at the Bedminster golf course of President Trump, to clean his room, to make his bed.

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] OK. I came in 2013 to work in that place. At the beginning, when he was not president, we saw him as a good person. He even tipped me three times. And I made his bed. I washed his—cleaned up his hotels. I made the bed of the first lady and Barron’s bed, who’s his son. I cleaned Ivanka’s house.

And when he became president, that’s when I saw his second face. He’s a hypocrite, because, there, we discovered his second face. He started talking badly about immigrants. That’s why I’m here, showing my face, because he says that we’re liars, that we’re rapists, thieves. And if it had been the case, I wouldn’t be here. I worked for him for five years. And he doesn’t value the work of immigrants.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about your decision, Victorina, in December, to come forward to The New York Times.

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] The decision is that I got tired of abuse, and including there was a supervisor there who treated us—called us stupid, said that we were donkeys. She compared me with her dog. She said that her dog understood better English than we did. And three times, they pushed me. They were trying to hit me. And that’s why I said, “No, I’ve had enough.” So I raised my voice. My lawyer heard me. And now you’re listening to me, so my voice is being extended. Thank you so much. Thank you for listening to me. I’m an immigrant. I am undocumented. I am very poor.

AMY GOODMAN: Victorina, can you describe what the working conditions were like at the Bedminster golf club, before President Trump ran for president and then when he was running, as well as the time he was president? Did they change?

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] When he became president, that’s when I saw that supervisors—we saw how he was talking about us on TV. And that’s why I thought that the supervisors there started treating us badly. They called us stupid, stupid immigrants. And they were using the same words he was using. They didn’t have the education to treat us well, to respect us. He doesn’t even respect himself. And, of course, he doesn’t respect us immigrants. So, but thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Eric Trump, President Trump’s son, tweeted this week, “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. We take this issue very seriously. This is one of the reasons my father is fighting so hard for immigration reform. The system is broken,” Eric Trump said. Can you respond to this, Victorina?

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] They don’t know—we have a proverb in Guatemala: You cannot hide the sun with a finger. They are lying. But we’re here, showing our face in front of everything they’re saying. It’s a lie. I’m an immigrant. I made my false documents right there.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, if you could explain what you mean when you said, “I did the paperwork”? Are you contending that it was the Trump Organization, President Trump’s business, that helped you to falsify papers?

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] Yes, of course, the supervisor helped me. He told me that I had to do the papers over again and that I had to make a new ID in order to be able to keep working there. His cousin took me to a place near Bound Brook, and they made my false papers there. The supervisor took the picture. He took the picture in the laundry place. And he asked me for $175. And he told me, when he gave me the documents, “Hide them, because if the police sees them, they can arrest you.”

So, this is the truth. This is what happened. We cannot go on lying. They say that we’re lying, that we’re thieves, rapists. But, no, we are here to work. And they know that, because we were their employees. And that’s why I don’t tire myself of saying that they are hypocrites, that they are lying. They are the liars.

AMY GOODMAN: How many people would you estimate at Bedminster were undocumented? How many of the people who worked for Donald Trump?

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] When the news came out in December, I stopped going to work, because I was the one who gave this news. I was tired of being abused. I said, “Enough. Enough of listening to him on the TV, and see how he treats us as immigrants.” I said, “No, I’m going to speak out. I’m going to come forward. And I’m going to say that he’s a liar. And that’s why I’m here, showing my face, so that he sees that we’re not liars. I am saying the truth.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you receive a certificate from the White House for doing outstanding work for the president, cleaning his room?

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] Yes, I did. Yes. I have the certificate. It’s a document they gave me for having done the best work at the club, golf club, of the president. Yes, I got that certificate.

AMY GOODMAN: You heard president Trump talking about invaders coming in from over the border and his demand to build a wall over the border. What are your thoughts?

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] Yes, what I think is that he should stop talking about the wall and that people come forward, because there are many people working for him. He has five clubs. And they are undocumented.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think about Eric Trump saying, you know, some people just don’t have papers, and where this happens in an organization that has thousands of workers? How high up do you think the knowledge of your not having documents and others not having documents went in Bedminster?

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] Yes, that information went very high, because many people are coming forward. I was undocumented, and I was working there. And now there are many people who are being fired who were undocumented and who were working for him, because there are five clubs who have been firing people.

AMY GOODMAN: Victorina Morales, can you talk about when you came to the United States and why you left Guatemala and how you made your way here?

VICTORINA MORALES: [translated] I came in 1999 from Guatemala. I was with my parents there. I was 7 years old when my father got killed. And then I got married. My husband came in 1999 to this country. And a year after he was here, he sent for me. After we sent money, we made a house. And then they killed my father-in-law in front of my children. But when I came to this country, it was 1999. And when I started working in Bedminster for the president, ’til now, in 2013, ’til 2018, when I raised my voice because I got tired.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to turn back to Bonnie Watson Coleman, the congressmember from New Jersey who invited Victorina Morales to the State of the Union address. As you listen to Victorina’s story, one that you know well now, what are you calling for? Fellow New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez says that they will launch an investigation into the Trump Organization’s employment practices. What are you doing in the House?

REP. BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN: Well, first of all, we have the same letter to the FBI, seeking the same investigation, because there are many employment violations and other hostile work environment situations, other illegal situations regarding the procuring of fraudulent documents.

Victorina, right now, is an applicant for asylum. I don’t know that she told you that. So, she’s also a material witness. And we think that those issues will protect her from being deported or detained or anything of that nature.

But this is not an isolated incident in the Trump enterprises. They knew what they were doing. They facilitated people getting—who were not documented, getting fraudulent documents to put in the file. So, it doesn’t matter what an Eric Trump or anybody else says right now. They very well knew, and they are lying if they’re suggesting in any other way. There are more than 20 people who have already been identified in the same situation as Victorina, and there are probably many more, my understanding, to be identified.

This is a pattern and practice of illegal employment activity, of creating a hostile work environment. But even more than that, this is an illustration of using good, decent, hard-working, honest people as pawns for a wall on the border that will serve no good interest, no service interest. And this is a justification for having shut down government for five weeks and deprived 800,000 people of their paychecks. This is just an illustration of the corrupt environment in which this administration is functioning.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s New Jersey Congressmember Bonnie Watson Coleman and Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant who worked for five years as a housekeeper for Donald Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. After a short break, we’ll be joined by Victorina’s attorney, Anibal Romero. Stay with us.