Donald Trump Has Turned Away Hundreds of American Workers to Hire Cheap Foreign Labor Instead

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Trump Invitational Grand Prix Mar-a-Lago Club
"China's taking away our jobs! Mexico's taking away our jobs! Heck, even I'm taking away our jobs!"Photo: Gustavo Caballero/2015 Getty Images

No one will bring our jobs back from China and Mexico like Trump,” Donald Trump recently wrote, in a Facebook post. The GOP front-runner’s commitment to restoring employment opportunities that Americans have lost to developing countries is one of the cornerstones of his candidacy. But where Trump has had the power to replace American workers with foreign ones, he has done so with gusto.

Since 2010, nearly 300 United States residents have applied for jobs at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, but only 17 were hired. Meanwhile, Trump pursued more than 500 visas for foreign workers at the resort, the New York Times reports.

Trump’s fondness for guest workers was brought to national attention by Reuters last summer, when the news service reported that the Donald had sought visas for over 1,000 foreign laborers since 2000. The Times investigation shows that those visas weren’t pursued for a lack of domestic applicants.

The only reason they wouldn’t get a callback is that they weren’t qualified, for some reason,” Trump insisted, in an interview with the paper. “There are very few qualified people during the high season in the area.”

But Tom Veenstra, senior director of a job-placement service in the area, disagrees, telling the Times, “We have hundreds of qualified applicants for jobs like those.”

In truth, there are plenty of reasons for employers to prefer guest workers over Americans, even if the former boast no superior qualifications. While foreign employees must receive an area’s “prevailing wage,” as determined by the Labor Department, they have no power to leave their jobs without forfeiting their right to reside in the country. This leaves guest workers with no leverage to request raises and discourages many from reporting mistreatment or abuses on the job.

Trump’s claim that he has only turned away American workers due to insufficient qualifications is undermined by his own rhetoric at a Republican debate in November.

Wages are too high,” Trump said, when asked if he would support raising the minimum wage. “We’re not going to be able to compete against the world.”

Trump’s preference for guest workers is likely driven by the need to compete in the hospitality industry’s “free-market.” According to the Times, many other clubs in the Palm Beach area also rely on foreign employees. If one resort is able to lower its prices through cheaper labor, all others must follow suit or operate at a disadvantage. This may be why the Mar-a-Lago has made no significant effort to up its hiring of American workers, even after Reuters’s report made its present staffing a political liability for Trump.

If the Donald wants to protect American workers’ employment prospects, he’d be better off putting forth plans to reform the country’s guest-worker programs than pretending he can restore a bygone era of American manufacturing. Before President Trump brings our jobs back from China and Mexico, he should probably see if he can “bring them back” from Palm Beach.