President Donald Trump said Friday he did not know about the dozens of undocumented workers employed at his golf courses over many years because he no longer runs his business.
Trump’s eldest sons, Don Jr. and Eric, have taken over management of the Trump Organization while their father is president.
But groundskeepers, maids and kitchen staff interviewed by The Washington Post in recent months say they worked without legal documents at Trump’s clubs long before he entered politics and made illegal immigration his core issue.
Standing outside the White House before departing for his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, reporters asked Trump about his knowledge of undocumented workers employed there and at his other clubs.
“Well, that I don’t know. Because I don’t run it,” Trump said. “But I would say this, probably every club in the United States has that, because it seems to me, from what I understand, a way that people did business.”
Then he added, “We’ve ended, whatever they did” and said the rules are now “very strict.”
The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The president’s remarks were his most extensive on the issue since it was first revealed that his clubs routinely relied on undocumented labor.
The Post has detailed the Trump Organization’s reliance on undocumented labor over many years. Immigrant labor helped build some of his golf courses and staffed jobs in housekeeping, maintenance and food preparation well into Trump’s presidency. The Post has so far interviewed 40 people who worked for Trump without legal status.
Trump Organization officials have said that these workers used fake documents to get their jobs and that the company fired them once they found out.
The company also adopted E-Verify, the government’s voluntary online system for checking if an employee is eligible to work in the United States.
In 2016, Trump told MSNBC host Chris Matthews: “I’m using E-Verify on just about every job … I’m using E-Verify, and I’ll tell you, it works.”
It was not until this year, however, that all of the company’s U.S. golf courses began using the system, which allows employers to check the names and personal information of new hires against records held by the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
This week, many of the fired employees, some who worked at Trump businesses for more than a decade, sent the president a letter requesting a meeting and urging him to give them a pathway to citizenship.
“You know many of us and will recall how hard we worked for you, your family and your golf clubs,” they wrote.