Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Is Signaling That Migrant Detention Is More Important That Disaster Relief

Just as Tropical Storm Dorian continues to barrel towards Puerto Rico on Tuesday, news broke that President Trump would be pulling $271 million from disaster relief funds. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the pulled funds will be coming from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Coast Guard in part to support President Trump’s border enforcement efforts.

Specifically, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would receive $155 million, coming from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, to help build facilities for migrant related court cases. U.S. Coast Guard operations will be losing $116 million in order to fund nearly 6,800 more beds for immigrant detainees as well as transportation and deportation needs. According to NBC News, The new allocated $271 million in funding “would allow ICE to detain nearly 50,000 immigrants at one time.” 

The previously allocated money was originally given to FEMA over 10 years ago. The funds were originally given to be used in this year’s current budget to prepare to respond to natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

Credit: @CBSNEWS / Twitter

DHS typically would have to get approval from Congress to reallocate funds from one of its agencies to another. This is because Congress appropriates each federal department’s annual budget. But instead, DHS sent a notice that said the administration has the authority to move the funds because of the “border emergency.”

“Given the rise of single adults crossing the border, ICE has already had to increase the number of detention beds above what Congress funded,” DHS said a statement. “Without additional funding for single adult detention beds and transportation from the U.S. Border Patrol to ICE detention facilities, ICE will not be able to support the influx of migrants from U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehensions.

The U.S. government has sent more than 30,000 people back to Mexico as part of it’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. This was done with efforts to have asylum seekers wait out their immigration cases and stop the influx of migrants from making the long journey to the U.S. The Trump administration also recently rolled out new policies that will allow migrant families, including those with children, to be detained indefinitely while their court cases are pending. Many speculate this is all being done to build more family detention facilities.

There has been criticism from Democrats who say the timing of these reallocated funds is a questionable move ahead of hurricane season.

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Democratic House members have already come out swiftly and strongly disagree with DHS reallocation efforts. They’ve also accused Homeland Security of going around appropriation rules without any requests from members of Congress.  

“I object to the use of funds for that purpose because the Department has provided no substantiation for a claim that this transfer is necessary due to ‘extraordinary circumstances that imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property,’”  Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif said in a tweet. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, echoed a similar sentiment saying the allocated funds are crucial, especially during the incoming hurricane season.

“The Trump administration’s plan to divert money away from FEMA at the start of hurricane season to continue its efforts to separate and jail migrant families is backwards and cruel,” Schumer said in a statement. “Taking these critical funds from disaster preparedness and recovery efforts threatens lives and weakens the government’s ability to help Americans in the wake of natural disasters. Congress appropriated these funds to meet the American people’s priorities and I strongly oppose this effort to undermine our constitutional authority.”

President Trump weighed in on the pending storm but did so without mentioning the pulled $155 Million in funds. 

Credit: @realdonaldtrump / Twitter

This news comes as hurricane season quickly approaches here in the U.S. and as Hurricane Dorian is set to make landfall in Florida on Labor Day.The storm is already strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane that is leading the U.S. territory to declare a state of emergency.

On Tuesday morning, President Trump acknowledged the incoming Hurricane Dorian and lauded past relief efforts to Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Yet there was no mention of the recently pulled FEMA funds.

“Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end?” Trump tweeted. “Congress approved 92 Billion Dollars for Puerto Rico last year, an all time record of its kind for ‘anywhere.'”

President Trump was widely criticized for a lack of urgency and preparation in retaliation to Hurricane Maria which ravaged Puerto Rico. The storm knocked out power on the island for months and killed 2,975, a number that is still being disputed.

READ: Female Indigenous Chief Confirms That Burning The Amazon Is Akin To Genocide, She’s Learning Portuguese To Speak To Brazil’s Leaders

7 Undocumented Workers Were Fired From A Virginia Trump Winery After The Harvest Was Over

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7 Undocumented Workers Were Fired From A Virginia Trump Winery After The Harvest Was Over

trumpwinery / Instagram

In 2018, vineyards in Virginia had an unfortunate season. The area experienced too much rain. Local winemakers called it the “toughest” season in the past two decades and that the harsh weather made it, so they produced less wine because so many grapes were lost. This season, however — because climate change has brought forth such unpredictable weather forecasts —  Virginia vineyards had a very successful season. With such a positive harvest, one would assume that vineyard workers would get some kind of bonus. Instead, they got fired.

Seven undocumented employees that worked at a Trump Virginia winery were fired before the end of the year because they were not U.S. citizens. 

Credit: @kylegriffin1 / Twitter

The Washington Post reports that the firing came at the end of December, before the start of 2020, which is odd timing considering other undocumented employees at other Trump properties almost a year ago. 

Back at the start of 2019, undocumented employees that worked at a Trump golf course in New Jersey were fired for lack of documentation to work in the U.S. So far, most of the workers that were fired back then said that the higher-ups, including President Donald Trump and his children who own the properties, were aware that they had undocumented workers on their payroll. Even then, the firings were odd, considering the president has been on an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, and anti-undocumented agenda since before his election. Yet all of the firings, even the most recent ones, seem to come when it’s most convenient for the company. 

The undocumented workers were fired at the end of the harvest season when they had completed their work on the vineyard. 

Credit: @swimmerbr78 / Twitter

Workers told the Washington Post that while they had anxiety about losing their jobs all year, especially after other undocumented employees at other properties were fired. But work went on as usual at the vineyard. The workers also report that earlier in December, Eric Trump, who is listed as the president of some of the Trump properties, visited the vineyard and was very gracious to his employees. The Post was in touch with several of the undocumented employees for months prior to their firing. 

“He gave me his hand,” Omar Miranda, one of the employees that was fired, recalled to the Post about Eric’s visit. Miranda had won a raffle, and Eric shook his hand and added, “Eric is like a co-worker.” Then, a couple of weeks later, he was fired. 

The workers said that Trump, his family, and management knew exactly what they were doing when they waited to fire them after the grape season had ended. 

Credit: @CalawayJaneen / Twitter

“They didn’t make this decision in the summer because they needed us a lot then,” Miranda told the Post. Another employee said, “I think they wanted to get their product out well, the grapes, to make sure that was taken care of, and once things were slow, they could fire us all.”

The publication asked the Trump organization about why they waited so long to fire these undocumented employees, and their statement was the same as it was last year when they fired employees at the golf course: “Consistent with our efforts, we will immediately terminate any individual who has provided fake identification in order to unlawfully gain employment.” 

People on social media expressed their anger over the timing of this firing as well as Trump’s treatment of their undocumented workers. 

Credit: @CMCRET / Twitter

Chef José Andrés tweeted, “Mr. ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩ why instead of firing them 3 years into your presidency, you pass immigration reform, giving #DREAMers and undocumented the place in the USA they deserve?”

“Not only are trump companies still employing undocumented immigrants, they hold off firing them in order take advantage of their labor as long as possible,” another tweeted. “He has no shame.”

As we noted earlier, this season Virginia experienced one of the best grape seasons in years. So it makes sense management didn’t want to fire employees until after the harvest to take advantage of the booming business. 

Credit: @EdHull8 / Twitter

“You have the perfect alignment of rainfall, sun, wind, weather, to where the quality of your grapes are the highest you’ve seen in a really long time,” Winemaker Emily Pelton told WHSV3 News.

Perhaps if the season had been a washout as it was in 2018, the undocumented employees would have been fired earlier in the year. We guess there’s always a silver lining. 

READ: With Reports Of Trump Employing Undocumented Workers, CBP Was Asked Why Trump’s Properties Have Not Been Raided

Two Housekeepers Exposed Trump’s Hotels For Hiring Undocumented Immigrants

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Two Housekeepers Exposed Trump’s Hotels For Hiring Undocumented Immigrants

Sandra Diaz

Two of Donald Trump’s former personal housekeepers exposed the president’s company Trump Organization, which he still owns, as employing dozens of undocumented immigrants. Sandra Diaz and Victorina Morales told reporters that many of Trump’s properties employ undocumented workers for exploitatively low pay and long hours.

The Washington Post spoke with 48 undocumented immigrants who worked at 11 of Donald Trump’s hotels and resorts in Florida, New Jersey, and Virginia. 

Diaz and Morales felt compelled to speak, as Trump’s damning rhetoric against undocumented immigrants became public discourse.

“How can you know something so big, how someone — who goes on national television and says something — and you know it’s not true,” Diaz said. “Whether it’s the president or not, you have the responsibility to say no. To pass through this barrier of fear and say no.”

When Trump began espousing increasingly virulent views on Latinxs and immigrants, the undocumented workers at his hotels and resorts began to feel the ire at work.

“The worry among the kitchen staff at BLT Prime, the hotel’s restaurant, was serious enough that a week before Trump took office, undocumented employees met with a manager to say they could not continue to come to work because they didn’t have legal documents and feared deportation,” according to the Washington Post

Trump’s referrals to Mexicans as rapists and criminals and the implication of a Latinx invasion left his employees apprehensive. The golf-playing clientele of Trump’s resorts would take on the president’s points of view when they interacted with the undocumented staff. 

“You’re still here? How come we can’t get rid of you? I’m going to call Trump, you [expletive] Mexican,” Gabriel Juarez, a former head waiter at one of Trump’s New York golf clubs, said a member told him.

Trump, their own employer was advocating for policies that he himself was violating and that was putting their lives at risk. Some employees even started to distance themselves because of the politically hostile environment. 

“I didn’t feel comfortable working over there. That atmosphere. A lot of conservative people talking about abortion or gay marriage,” said the anonymous former employee. “I got kind of tired of all these anti-immigration [events].”

Morales says she became afraid to work there because she feared violence.

The intensity increased with housekeepers noticing both hostilities towards immigrants and Trump. They found anti-Trump messaging vandalizing the mirrors of the men’s locker room. In one instance, there was even a hanged Trump doll in a stall. 

“It made me afraid,” Morales said. “We began to wonder: What if someone comes and puts a bomb in here?”

Morales who migrated from Guatemala didn’t want to stand up against her boss who was now the most powerful man in the United States, but she could see how quickly and how badly things could be. 

While Diaz was able to become a permanent resident, Morales has not. Despite efforts from a lawyer to protect Morales and other undocumented employees from being deported because they were material witnesses in a possible federal crime, they were not granted protected status. With little other options, the two turned to the press. 

No one has been deported because of the two housekeepers, yet many of the undocumented workers who are still employed by Trump resent the pair. When the news broke there was a company-wide audit of employees. Trump Organization fired at least 18 people because of their immigration status, workers who spoke to the Washington Post said it was closer to 30 or 40. 

“I also worked there a long time without papers but the most incredible thing is to see how people, when they have papers, forget how they got here,” Antonio Zuñiga, a former Trump employee, wrote on Facebook. “I’m sorry but people like you Doña Sandra have forgotten their principles.”

Trump all but blanketly admits that his properties employ undocumented immigrants.

“Well, that I don’t know. Because I don’t run it,” Trump told reporters when asked if Trump Organization employed undocumented immigrants in July. “But I would say this: Probably every club in the United States has that, because it seems to me, from what I understand, a way that people did business.”

However, in the article many of the undocumented workers said they personally met Trump. When the Washington Post reached out for comment about the allegations from the workers, the press secretary vaguely denied all of the claims. 

“The assertions made for this story are not only false, they are a disgusting attempt at invading the privacy of the First Family,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the Washington Post. “This is not journalism — it is fabricated tabloid trash.”

Morales has since applied for asylum in the United States. She and Diaz are actively mobilizing against Trump’s re-election campaign. 

“We are here to show our faces not just for ourselves, but for the 11 million [undocumented] immigrants who are here in the country,” Morales said at a Trump rally in Orlando, Florida.