Trump Hotels, owned by the eponymous and bombastic real estate mogul Donald Trump, reportedly paid a number of employed undocumented immigrants during the construction of the chain's not-yet-completed outpost in Washington, DC, according to interviews with employees by the Washington Post.
Difficult to confirm without specific information on private citizen statuses or internal employer review procedures, the claims nevertheless present a new public perception challenge for Trump, whose hard-line narrative on immigration has taken center stage during his campaign for the GOP ticket in the 2016 presidential race.
People rarely say that many conservatives didn’t vote for Mitt Romney. If I can get them to vote for me, we win in a landslide.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 7, 2015
While his outspoken position on immigration may reward him, eventually, with the approval of conservative voters — he has even won over fellow candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) — initial statements on Mexicans sparked a handful of large US companies to cut ties with him, including Univision, NBC, and Macy's, among others. Here are the exact comments Trump made in his nomination announcement, which pressured response, and which he has since expanded on:
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best," Trump said on June 16 when announcing his candidacy for president. "They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting."
Hope Hicks, spokesperson for the Trump Organization, denied that the firm employed workers who are unauthorized to work in the US, noting the company's frequent use of subcontractors. Hicks is also part of Trump's campaign, further highlighting the interconnected nature of the candidate's public campaign and private career.
The report resulted in an immediate business decision against Trump. The DC hotel was due to host a restaurant managed by chef José Andrés' company, who has since cancelled the deal.
Who are the 15 employees the Washington Post interviewed? First, they appear to be mostly, if not all, men from Latin American countries who are working to financially support their families:
"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."
Second, some of the employees in the group say they first arrived in the US without paperwork, but have since the time of their arrival successfully achieved proper documentation, while some others have not, leaving the question of Trump's position on comprehensive immigration reform policies wide open for debate.
The hotel is slated to open in 2016.