Eric Trump in a Tweet and Sarah Saunders in a non-answer from the White House Briefing Room podium on Monday sought to dismiss the extensive press coverage of the undocumented immigrant employees who were recently fired from Trump’s properties in Bedminster, New Jersey and Westchester, New York. But the stories of these workers are attracting a great deal of attention and sympathy and they are not going away.
The stories told by these workers are both typical and extraordinary.
Yes, in many ways they are typical of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who live and worked here for decades, escape poverty and violence to make a better life for their children. And yes, they are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, retribution and deportation because legal status is not available to them.
But these individuals are extraordinary in the sense that they are witnesses to an ongoing criminal enterprise that directly implicates the President of the United States and his family. There is ample evidence that the Trump Organization knew full well that these and other of their workers were undocumented; the Trump Organization helped facilitate false documents for them and others; the Trump Organization also treated them differently by paying them less and denying them benefits extended to other workers. They did this for years.
These individuals are extraordinary in the sense that they are witnesses to an ongoing criminal enterprise that directly implicates the President of the United States and his family
Two things must happen immediately: 1) Since it is difficult to imagine that Trump’s political appointees will order up a full and fair federal investigation, it is imperative that state authorities in New Jersey and New York launch immediate investigations into the criminal practices of the Trump Organization wherever they hold properties; 2) These workers need protection from any sort of effort to silence, dismiss or deport them; they have displayed remarkable courage coming forward at considerable personal risk and should be protected from retaliation and granted the relief available to them under law.
These individual workers are inspiring because each has made it clear in interviews that they are speaking up in order to help protect the millions of other workers like themselves who lack papers and are vulnerable. As Congress debates how to keep the government open without funding a silly and offensive border wall, we need to refocus on the millions of individuals like these working men and women who live alongside us, who work hard and contribute to the enterprises that employ them, and who, instead of being exploited and discarded by corrupt employers, should be incorporated into our economy on a legal basis.
Frank Sharry is the Executive Director of América’s Voice.
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