Donald Trump’s Construction Worker Problem

Donald Trump has been losing business left and right because of his harsh rhetoric on immigration. He’s also been gaining in the polls in his bid for the White House. More than 10 companies and organizations immediately cut business ties with the GOP presidential contender after his announcement for president in which the billionaire accused Mexico of sending murderers and rapists across the border into the United States.

In statements following his original comments, Trump doubled down and then tripled down, saying: “What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc."

These comments are, of course, wholly untrue. In any large group of people you will find a criminal element. In the case of undocumented immigrants, the criminal element is the small minority.

Trump’s comments have also been attacked as hypocritical. A Washington Post story revealed that Trump has quite a few undocumented immigrants working on one of his construction projects underway in Washington. From the story:

"...a Trump company may be relying on some undocumented workers to finish the $200 million hotel, which will sit five blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to several who work there. A Trump spokeswoman said the company and its contractors follow all applicable laws. But in light of Trump’s comments, some of the workers at the site said they are now worried about their jobs — while others simply expressed disgust over the opinions of the man ultimately responsible for the creation of those jobs.

All of them said they have been talking about Trump ever since his inflammatory remarks dominated coverage of his presidential announcement on June 16.

‘It’s something ironic,’ said Ivan Arellano, 29, who is from Mexico and obtained legal status through marriage…The majority of us are Hispanics, many who came illegally,” Arellano said in Spanish. “And we’re all here working very hard to build a better life for our families.’”

The revelation that undocumented workers are toiling away on a construction site owned by Trump should surprise no one. Even when companies pay in excess of $15 per hour to do things like concrete finishing, roofing, painting, floor installation, or framing – and that rate is common here in Texas – the vast majority of people who apply for the jobs are undocumented immigrants. Perhaps Trump should try a day doing any of those jobs and see how long he lasts.

What I find shocking is that Trump isn’t fighting alongside other responsible employers to fix the problem. Instead of railing against Mexico and calling for an "impenetrable wall," he should be lining up with business interests and many of his fellow Republicans here in Texas and elsewhere who have repeatedly called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a guest worker program.

Amid all the rhetoric, what people need to know is this: Employers like Trump and the companies he contracts with can follow the letter of the law and still end up with people on their job sites who lack legal status.

How does that happen?

Well, if a job applicant presents documents that look legitimate, the employer cannot turn the person away because of a suspicion that the person might be an undocumented immigrant. Why would they turn a person away? Because they have brown skin? Because they speak in broken English? To deny a person a job for those reasons invites discrimination lawsuits and investigations by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employers like Trump are in a no-win situation.

That’s exactly why Trump should truly get tough on undocumented immigrants instead of just talking tough. Trump should demand undocumented immigrants pass a background check, pay a fine, learn English, be identified and taxed. They should also have to work for an employer that deducts and matches payroll taxes on the labor. These are matters that would be addressed through comprehensive immigration reform at the national level.

A path to citizenship can be debated later. But, for Trump to do less than argue strenuously for a guest worker program amounts to him supporting our nation’s current policy of de facto amnesty.

Originally published on


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