Donald Trump Empire Sought Visas For At Least 1,100 Foreign Workers

Donald Trump is staking his run for U.S. president in part on a vow to protect American jobs. But this month, one of his companies, the elite Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Florida, applied to import 70 foreign workers to serve as cooks, wait staff and cleaners.

A Reuters analysis of U.S. government data reveals that this is business as usual in the New York property magnate’s empire.

Trump owns companies that have sought to import at least 1,100 foreign workers on temporary visas since 2000, according to U.S. Department of Labor data reviewed by Reuters. Most of the applications were approved, the data show.

Nine companies majority-owned by Trump have sought to bring in foreign waitresses, cooks, vineyard workers and other laborers on temporary work-visa programs administered by the Labor Department.

The candidate’s foreign talent hunt included applications for an assistant golf-course superintendent, an assistant hotel manager and a banquet manager.

Two of his companies, Trump Model Management and Trump Management Group LLC, have sought visas for nearly 250 foreign fashion models, the records show.

Trump’s presidential campaign and a lawyer for the businessman declined to comment. The Mar-a-Lago Club could not be reached for comment.

The analysis of Trump’s history of actively importing foreign workers comes as he has emerged as an early front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination in the November 2016 presidential election. Trump has positioned himself as a champion of American workers whose livelihoods are threatened by illegal foreign laborers and the offshoring of U.S. jobs.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God every created,” he said in announcing his candidacy on June 16. “I will bring back our jobs from China, Mexico and other places. I will bring back jobs and our money.”

 

Trump generated both notoriety and buzz by singling out Mexican immigrants in the United States. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said in the speech. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

In a speech on July 11, Trump distinguished between those working legally and illegally in the United States, saying thousands of “legal” Mexicans – “incredible people” – have worked for him over the years.

The Labor Department records don’t specify the nationality of the foreign workers sought by companies. But Trump could be bringing many Mexican workers into the United States.

Reuters examined records of applications for three categories of temporary work visas – the H-2A, H-2B and H-1B programs – submitted by employers to the Labor Department.

A CONTROVERSIAL VISA PROGRAM

The temporary work visa program through which Trump’s companies have sought the greatest numbers of workers, H-2B, brings in mostly workers from Mexico. Mexicans made up more than 80 percent of the 104,993 admissions to the United States on H-2B visas in 2013. The Trump companies have sought at least 850 H-2B visa workers.

The H-2B program, which receives little government oversight, is used by companies in sectors ranging from hospitality to forestry to hire foreign workers for temporary jobs. Companies must prove that the jobs are seasonal – and that they tried and failed to hire Americans.

U.S. government watchdogs have criticized the H-2B and H-2A programs over the years for failing to protect foreign and American workers alike.

In 2003, the Labor Department Inspector General said: “Abuses of these programs may result in economic harm to American workers and businesses, exploitation of foreign workers, and security risks associated with aliens who are admitted to this country by fraudulent means.”

This year, the Government Accountability Office published a report saying that workers in the country on H-2A and H-2B visas have experienced abuse, including being charged illegal recruiting fees, substandard housing and low pay.

The Mar-a-Lago, a luxury resort in Palm Beach, Florida, has sought the most foreign workers of the nine Trump businesses: 787 workers since 2006, according to the data.

This month, the resort filed paperwork seeking to bring in 70 foreign workers later this year on H-2B visas to serve as maids, cooks and wait staff, according to paperwork known as “job orders” published on the Labor Department’s web site.

In addition to the resort and the modeling agencies, the Trump-owned companies identified in the Reuters analysis were Jupiter Golf Club, Lamington Farm Club LLC, Trump Miami Resorts Management LLC, Trump National Golf Club LLC, Trump Payroll Chicago LLC and Trump Vineyard Estates LLC.

(Edited by Michael Williams)

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Puerto Rico To Default After Missing Payment

July 31 (Reuters) – Puerto Rico will miss a payment on debt due Aug. 1, the governor’s chief of staff said on Friday, an event that will be considered a default by investors as the commonwealth lurches towards what could be one of the largest U.S. municipal debt restructurings in history.

The island faces a number of debt payments that day but had signaled in recent weeks that it may miss the $58 million payment on Public Finance Corporation (PFC) bonds.

“Tomorrow is Aug. 1 and we don’t have the money,” Puerto Rico’s governor’s chief of staff Victor Suarez told journalists in San Juan. “The PFC payment will not be made this weekend. It was not consigned.”

Suarez also said the government only had enough cash to operate until November if no additional measures are taken to increase cashflow.

The PFC missed payment will mark the first by the commonwealth. According to a 2014 bond offering statement, Puerto Rico has never defaulted on the payment of principal or interest of debt.

“What could surprise investors is when they actually hear the word ‘default,’ and that a default occurred,” said Lyle Fitterer, head of tax-exempt fixed income at Wells Capital Management, which holds mostly insured Puerto Rico debt.

“The immediate reaction might be a slight sell-off in the marketplace because I think people will start to anticipate, ‘OK, what’s the next series of debt they’re going to default on?'”

Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla shocked investors in June when he said the island’s debt, totaling $72 billion, was unpayable and required restructuring.

The non-payment by Puerto Rico would be the most notable since Detroit, which had about $8 billion of bonds, defaulted on $1.45 billion of insured pension bonds before it filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

The PFC skipped payment had been signaled to investors over the past few weeks. Suarez said on Monday that the commonwealth did not have the current cash flow to pay the PFC bonds. PFC bonds have weaker protections than many other Puerto Rico bonds.

“I bought my (PFC) bonds with the anticipation of them defaulting,” said Ben Eiler, managing partner at First Southern Securities in Puerto Rico, earlier this week. “They’re going to restructure in some form or fashion, and I believe that restructure is going to be higher than that level.”

However, Puerto Rico is making another debt payment due. The head of its Government Development Bank (GDB), President Melba Acosta, said in a statement released Friday that the bank would make a $169 million payment for the debt service on GDB debt.

“From the perspective of Puerto Rico, it makes the most sense to default on the PFC bonds,” said Michael Comes, portfolio manager and vice president of research at Cumberland Advisors in Florida. “There’s no recourse back to them if they don’t make the payments.”

The likelihood of a restructuring is leading investors to wonder how Puerto Rico will prioritize debt payments versus citizens’ needs.

“We’re beginning to discern a … mindset on the island that the government is weighing the interest of investors against the economic interest of the island,” said Thomas McLoughlin, UBS chief investment officer wealth management research, on Thursday.

 

 

DEFAULT DEBATE

Suarez told reporters in San Juan on Wednesday that a missed payment would not constitute default. Bond documents state that Puerto Rico’s legislature is not legally bound to appropriate the funds for payment.

However, credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said earlier this week it would view non-payment of rated PFC bonds on their due date as a default. Moody’s said it would also consider it a default.

“It (would be) the first failure by the government to pay on a debt to public investors and indicates the weakness of the government’s ability and willingness to pay,” said Timothy Blake, managing director of Moody’s Public Finance Group.

A default could open the door to a fight with investors. Daniel Hanson, analyst at Height Securities, said in a research note that market participants would probably file suit in San Juan as soon as Tuesday.

Still, that could be an uphill battle.

“Our reading of the legal documents is that bondholders have very limited remedies,” said David Hitchcock, an analyst at S&P. “Puerto Rico could potentially just ignore the bondholders.”

Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said they had been anticipating “any type of litigation that this situation may cause.”

“We have been organizing ourselves, using internal resources when we can, and external ones when necessary, to defend against any claim that is made,” Miranda said. (Reporting by a contributor in San Juan; and Megan Davies and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; editing by Clive McKeef, Dan Grebler and Ken Wills)

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Immigration Activists Accuse Bernie Sanders Of Using GOP Talking Points

WASHINGTON — When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said this week that he opposes open borders — more a hypothetical than an actual policy proposal — no one was shocked. The Democratic presidential candidate supported comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 and favors a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but he’s long been skeptical of guest worker programs and other legal immigration that could squeeze out American workers.

Some immigration advocates, however, said they were surprised Sanders quickly went from talking about open borders to saying he doesn’t want immigrants to take American jobs. 

Sanders has insisted he was speaking about open borders, something no candidate is pushing, but also repeated his concern that businesses want to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to take American jobs.

“Those are the talking points that Republicans use to drive a wedge between Latinos and the African-American vote, saying, ‘They’re coming to take your jobs.’ That at its core does not resonate and does not set him apart from the Republican Party,” said Greisa Martinez, advocacy coordinator for United We Dream, a group led by undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. 

Sanders’ immigration policy stances are generally in step with advocacy groups. But as he struggles to win over minority voters, his tone matters. Some advocates said they have concerns that his opposition to new immigrant workers disrespects immigrants as a whole.

FWD.us,  the Mark Zuckerberg-backed group that advocates for immigration reform, was the first organization to criticize Sanders for his remarks to Vox. Todd Schulte, the group’s executive director, wrote Wednesday that Sanders “falsely pits immigrants as an obstacle to tackling unemployment.” He called that view “troubling,” and noted that studies have found immigration boosts the economy.

Sanders often says giving undocumented immigrants legal status would aid the economy, but his comments on new immigrants tend to hinge more on the idea of Americans losing their jobs — to the chagrin of some advocates.

“There’s just overwhelming information about how immigrants contribute to our economy and to our communities, and that’s something that should be part of the conversation instead of the frame of mind that immigrants can take jobs, which is incorrect,” said Lizet Ocampo, associate director for immigration at the Center for American Progress, which has analyzed economic benefits of immigration reform.

Sanders’ skepticism about expanding legal immigration, particularly guest worker programs, reflects a broader tension within the immigrant rights movement that long separated organized labor and allies like Sanders from other center-left and business community stakeholders. In 2007, Sanders and labor allies in the Senate voted against a bipartisan immigration reform bill, which they said expanded guest worker programs without adequate protections for American workers.

More recently, the labor-backed wing of the reform movement has found ways to overcome its misgivings about increasing guest worker programs for the sake of passing comprehensive immigration reform. Sanders joined major labor unions in lending support to increases in the guest worker program as part of the 2013 comprehensive immigration bill in exchange for promises of new protections against exploitation. Sanders also secured $1.5 billion for youth job training.

To many observers, Sanders’ 2013 vote shows current differences are matters of tone, not substance.

“Abstractly,” Sanders, like organized labor, “would prefer no guest worker programs,” said Harley Shaiken, an organized labor expert at the University of California, Berkeley. “They have shown a willingness to accept some kind of guest worker programs as the price of admission to comprehensive reform, meaning the participation of the business community.”

Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, said Sanders’ remarks reflect a divide — not among progressive reform advocates, but between progressives and business-backed groups like FWD.us. He called the FWD.us criticism of Sanders “hyperbole” aimed at silencing questions about guest worker programs pushed by big business. FWD.us founder Mark Zuckerberg also is founder and CEO of Facebook, which Costa notes lobbied Congress for a larger, more lenient H-1B visa guest worker program in 2013.

“The corporate view of immigration has had a public relations victory,” Costa said. “They have tied immigration reform with what they want, which is expanded and deregulated guest worker programs. There is a left view and a more corporate view that is being mistaken for the left view sometimes.”

Costa noted that other reform groups share Sanders’ concerns and support attempts to insure protections against exploitation of foreign workers, but have sometimes disagreed about how much to compromise in order to achieve comprehensive reform.

Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, said Sanders is part of a spectrum on the pro-immigration reform side, which ranges from those who think legal immigration is good to keep up with the labor market, to those who say it could hurt American jobs.

But in the end, they agree on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

The 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Sanders supported “had a pretty significant expansion of legal immigration,”Sharry said. “So to call him some troglodyte who doesn’t get it and wants to keep them all out — that’s just not true.” 

Neither United We Dream nor FWD.us discounted Sanders as an ally, even as they questioned his recent comments.

“We’re thankful for the senator’s support for the bill in 2013, but we want to make sure that we are laying the foundation for success in the future, and really hope that moving forward — to be a strong ally — he will reconsider his debunked falsehoods about immigrants taking jobs from Americans and depressing wages,” FWD.us’s Schulte said in an email on Friday.  

The AFL-CIO wouldn’t comment directly on Sanders’ remarks, instead emphasizing its commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. Sanders and the other major Democratic presidential candidates, as well as Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee, spoke to top organized labor officials at the AFL-CIO’s executive council meeting earlier this week in an attempt to win the labor federation’s endorsement. 

“The AFL-CIO’s position on the need for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship is clear,” Amaya Smith, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, said in an email. “The AFL-CIO has been talking to various presidential candidates on issues important to working families. We’ll be evaluating candidates in the future on a host of issues that are part of the Raising Wages agenda.”

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Lawyers Claim Medical Neglect At ICE Family Detention Centers

Women locked up with their children at family detention centers in Texas have been repeatedly subjected to medical neglect, alleges a complaint lodged Thursday with the Department of Homeland Security.

The letter, sent by the CARA pro bono project, which represents women and children in family detention, to the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties outlines 10 cases of alleged medical neglect at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley and the Karnes County Residential Center. The complaint marks another blow to the Obama administration’s controversial policy of detaining immigrant families, a week after a federal judge said the practice is illegal and should be discontinued.

Medical staff routinely told women and children at the Dilley facility to “drink more water,” even when they showed up with symptoms including broken bones, severe weight loss and fainting spells, attorneys said in the letter. Detainees seeking treatment waited up to 14 hours to speak to a health professional, sometimes receiving no medication or little follow-up treatment, says the letter, which appears in full below.

“Mothers and children often enter the detention centers with injuries or illnesses that remain untreated throughout the duration of their detention,” the letter reads. “The detention of sick mothers and children, when they could be released to families, friends or community-based organizations willing to take them in, is inhumane.”

One of the women, identified by the pseudonym “Yaniret,” said she took her 5-year-old daughter for medical treatment at the Karnes family detention center in early May, after noting an odd vaginal secretion. The doctor said he would swab the outer area of the child’s vagina, but instead forced a probe into her, making her scream from pain. The doctor wrote a prescription for antibiotics to treat the infection, but Yaniret couldn’t get the medicine at the detention center.

Weeks later, the child refused to be examined by a different doctor because of her bad experience, the letter says. In June, Yaniret and her daughter went with a woman from the Honduran consulate to an outside clinic, where a doctor once again prescribed medicine that Yaniret says she couldn’t obtain at the detention center. When she showed a journalist a diaper stained with her daughter’s untreated secretion, guards at the center punished Yaniret by denying her food, the letter says.

Another woman, identified as “Jessica,” fled Honduras with her two children, aged 4 and 6, after being targeted by the M-18 gang. She arrived at the center suffering from painful breast cancer but medical staff declined to see her, saying that they were only there to treat children, Jessica said. She later developed a severe headache that caused nine days of repeated vomiting. She has lost 13 pounds since being detained, according to CARA.

A woman called “Melinda” arrived at the detention center with broken bones in her hand resulting from five days of repeated beatings and rape after she was kidnapped by a gang in El Salvador, the letter says. A doctor instructed her to drink water.

In response to the letter, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Richard Rocha emailed The Huffington Post a statement saying the agency operates family detention centers transparently and that the facilities have medical care, play rooms and social workers. 

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care,” the statement says. “The agency is committed to ensuring that individuals housed in our family residential centers receive timely and appropriate medical health care.”

Both detention centers mentioned in the complaint are run as for-profit enterprises by private prison contractors. Corrections Corporation of America runs the Dilley facility, while the GEO Group runs the detention center at Karnes. Both companies have issued several statements denying wrongdoing and referring further questioning to ICE.

Allegations of neglect and other abuses have plagued the family detention system since the Obama administration expanded it last year. In another case earlier this month, a mother who fled Honduras after a gang threatened to kill her daughter said her child vomited blood for a week without receiving medication or being released from detention. Celina Gutiérrez Cruz and her 6-year-old daughter have passed initial screening for withholding of deportation — a form of relief similar to asylum — but ICE has refused to release them from detention. Both of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a psychological evaluation.

CARA filed a writ of habeas corpus Thursday demanding that ICE release Gutiérrez, who has been detained since January.

“This is a very rare and rarely needed step,” Andrew Free, an attorney who works with CARA to represent detainees, told HuffPost. “Prolonged detention habeas corpus petitions are usually filed when people have been held in detention when facing criminal charges… But we think there is an urgent, pressing need to have an independent, federal judge look at this detention.”

The Obama administration largely abandoned the policy of locking up immigrant families in detention in 2009, but ramped it up once more last year during an unprecedented influx of unaccompanied minors and female-headed families crossing to the U.S., mostly from the violence-plagued Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

A federal judge ruled earlier this month, however, that the policy violates the 1997 Flores settlement, which requires the federal government to detain undocumented children in the least restrictive setting possible and to adopt a “general policy favoring release.” The government has until Aug. 3 to respond to the ruling.  

The allegations of abuse and neglect, coupled with the adverse court ruling, have made family detention unpopular among many Democrats. Some 178 Democratic members of the House of Representatives issued a letter Friday calling for the Obama administration to eliminate it.

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Critics See Chance To End Family Immigrant Detention Entirely

WASHINGTON — Family immigrant detention was dealt a major blow last week in court, and critics are hoping to build on the ruling’s momentum to kill the practice entirely.

Immigration attorneys filed on Tuesday for multiple immigrant women and children to be immediately released from detention facilities without bond. In Washington, House Democrats held a forum on what they called internment camp-style facilities, featuring two formerly detained women and a former detention center social worker who alleged serious mistreatment of children, and attempts to cover up any problems.

For months, advocates have been increasingly pleading for the government to end or at least seriously limit detention of women and children seeking asylum, and the pressure, combined with court rulings, could eventually achieve that. But in the meantime, attorneys and other critics allege that mistreatment, confusion and dishonesty abound in family immigrant detention facilities.

U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling on Friday said family detention violates the 1997 Flores Agreement, a settlement that governs the way the Department of Homeland Security handles undocumented children. It says undocumented children should be kept in the “least restrictive” environment possible and that DHS should generally adopt a “policy favoring release.”

House Democrats plan to send a letter urging the administration to drop its commitment to family immigrant detention in the wake of Gee’s ruling. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), on the other hand, urged DHS to continue to fight to keep detaining women and children.

The agency has until Aug. 3 to respond to Gee.

DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement that they “are disappointed with the court’s decision and are reviewing it in consultation with the Department of Justice.” 

The ruling has the potential to roll back the Obama administration’s expansion of family detention, which immigration officials implemented to deter an influx of about 68,0000 undocumented immigrant family units crossing into the United States from violence-plagued Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala last fiscal year, many of them seeking asylum.

On Monday, immigration judges in Miami hearing family detention cases in Dilley, Texas, by cable link were already ordering ICE to release women and children detained there in light of the ruling. On Tuesday, the CARA pro bono project, a group that organizes volunteer attorneys to represent women and children in family detention, asked an immigration judge to release another seven women without bond in light of the ruling. The court filing also accused ICE of impeding the detainees’ access to lawyers and trying to oblige them to accept an ankle monitor as a condition for release, even though immigration judges had previously assigned the women bonds of $1,500 without the ankle monitor requirement.

Many of those women and children who fled violence in their home countries say they found a punishing atmosphere in the Dilley detention facility.

At the House Democrats’ forum, Sonia Hernández said she’d spent 315 days in detention after fleeing from gangs in El Salvador with her three children.

“When my kids were hungry, all they gave them was soup — instant ramen,” Hernández said, recalling the time she spent detained at Karnes County Residential Center, another family detention center in Texas. “One official told me his dog ate better than we did inside of detention. … There were two mothers who slit their wrists because they did not want to return to their country. One of them — a week after she slit her wrists — rather than take her to the hospital, they deported her.”

Another former detainee who spoke at the forum, Gladys Dubon-Chifas, spent 11 months in detention. While there, her daughter became ill and vomited blood. Despite requesting attention repeatedly, she said medics at the facility said to give her daughter water and her illness would pass. Eventually her daughter weakened to the point that she couldn’t walk, and she was rushed to a hospital.

“It was a very difficult situation,” Dubon-Chifas said. “I don’t want other mothers and children to go through what I went through.

The bleak vision was echoed by other detainee accounts compiled by attorneys with the CARA pro bono project.

One detainee said a painful tumor on her breast with yellow drainage has worsened since arriving in detention, but she never received pain medication. A woman and her child suffered respiratory infections for 10 days, and the only medical treatment they received was a recommendation to drink water. A woman with two children was told that if she continued to show signs of depression, her children would be taken away from her. The attorneys said they redacted the names of the detainees to protect their privacy.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement disputed the vision presented by attorneys, saying the agency was committed to providing health services to women and children in family detention.

“ICE takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care,” ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. “The agency is committed to ensuring that individuals housed in our family residential centers have care and resources.”

The agency has already begun to limit family detention somewhat, after a policy change implemented earlier this month to release most women and children if they were found to be eligible for asylum.

The family detention center at Dilley was built last year by the Corrections Corporation of America, which contracts with the federal government to operate the facility as a for-profit enterprise. 

“Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is committed to treating all individuals in our care with the dignity, respect and care they deserve,” CCA’s managing director for communications, Steve Owen, said in a statement emailed to HuffPost.

While immigration attorneys and advocates applaud the releases — and want them to happen more quickly — they’ve alleged a host of problems with how many are taking place, from coercion of women by ICE agents to a lack of access to information and legal counsel.

In several affidavits appended to Tuesday’s filing, lawyers and their clients say ICE and CCA officials gathered the women without their attorneys present and told them that they could be released without bond if they agreed to wear an ankle monitor. Some women, whose names were redacted from the documents, said they signed the agreements without talking to a lawyer. They weren’t provided with a Spanish translation of the agreement or a copy of the English version they signed, the documents say. 

“We’re seeing tactics that range from the disingenuous to the downright dishonest at this point, and it is confusing the women, it is harming the women, and they are not being [allowed] to talk to counsel,” said Karen Lucas, associate director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

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