Presidential contender Donald Trump gestures to the media on the 17th fairway on the first day of the Women's British Open golf championship on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, July 30, 2015.
Photo by Scott Heppell/AP

Trump did more than just hire many undocumented employees

During the 2016 presidential election, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked then-candidate Donald Trump about the possible punishments for American businesses that hire undocumented immigrants. “You can be very, very strong,” the Republican replied. “It can be a huge financial penalty. It could be beyond a financial penalty.”

The “beyond a financial penalty” seemed to suggest Trump’s interest in possible criminal penalties.

Many GOP voters probably liked what they heard. What they didn’t know at the time, of course, was that the future president was apparently breaking the same laws he claimed he was eager to enforce.

There have been a variety of reports in recent months about Trump’s businesses hiring undocumented immigrant workers, allegedly with the knowledge of their managers. Indeed, the New York Times reported late last year that Trump’s club in New Jersey took deliberate steps to obscure the fact that it was breaking the law.

The Washington Post advanced the story further yesterday, noting that some of Trump’s undocumented employees were routinely asked to do “side work” after their shifts ended – for no pay.

Allegations that workers were routinely shortchanged on their pay at President Trump’s suburban country club are now the subject of an inquiry by the New York attorney general, whose investigators have interviewed more than two dozen former employees.

The inquiry could raise awkward political questions for Trump, who has made stopping illegal immigration a centerpiece of his presidency and his reelection campaign but faces allegations that his business benefited from low-paid undocumented workers.

Though a statement from the Trump Organization denied the claims, the Post spoke to a former manager at Trump’s Westchester club who said, “There was a conscious effort to pay less wages, because they knew about the lack of documents…. You know, where are they going to go?”

In other words, Trump’s private business stands accused of not only hiring undocumented immigrants, but also exploiting them.

As for the president’s willingness to pay “a huge financial penalty,” such as the one he endorsed a few years ago, I have a hunch he feels differently now.