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Tuesday
Apr182017

President Trump's history of using foreign workers in his business ventures

@PressSec/Twitter(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump is set to deliver a speech Tuesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he will reiterate a campaign maxim: Buy American, hire American.

In a move that wasn't available to him a few months ago, however, he's expected to act on it.

Trump is slated to issue an executive order that calls on the Departments of Labor, Justice, State and Homeland Security to "take prompt action to crack down on fraud and abuse" within the United States' immigration system to protect workers in the country and reform the program by "awarding visas to the most skilled and highest paid applicants," senior administration officials told ABC News.

The order, which he is expected to sign at an event in Wisconsin on Tuesday, will strictly enforce "laws governing entry into the United States of labor from abroad for the stated purpose of creating higher wages and higher employment rates for workers in the United States," according to a White House official.

Senior administration officials say the order is effectively an initiation of a review by these departments of how the current visa waiver program is structured, rather than a call to take immediate, specific actions regarding the visa programs.

Before he ventured into politics, Trump made use of some of the visa programs that will likely be under review at his various business ventures and properties.

Mar-a-Lago

Trump has spent seven of his first 13 weekends as president at Mar-a-Lago, the private club he owns in Palm Beach, Florida, even dining there with world leaders both in the formal dining room and on the deck amid other club members.

According to The Palm Beach Post, during the busy winter season from the end of 2015 through the beginning of 2016, Mar-a-Lago administrators requested 69 foreign workers to fill positions as housekeepers, waiters and cooks. The Department of Labor signed off on that request, according to the paper. The H-2B visa program allows American companies to hire low-wage foreign nonagricultural workers.

That number was down from the two prior seasons, with Mar-a-Lago requesting 90 visas in 2014 and 87 visas in 2013, according to The Palm Beach Post.

Trump has previously defended his decision to use foreign workers.

In an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos last June, Trump said, "It's very, very hard to get people in Palm Beach during the Palm Beach season."

"Sometimes [you] have to bring people in," Trump said.

Later in the interview, when pressed about the specifics of how many people had been hired by Mar-a-Lago under the H-2B visa program in the past, Trump said he wasn't the one in charge.

"Well, you know what? I don't hire the people. I don't hire 'em. But I will tell you this. During the Palm Beach season, it is very, very hard to get people. During the season, you can't get people. ... But if you look at all of the other places in Palm Beach, they're all doing exactly the same thing," he said.

Trump Winery

Mar-a-Lago isn't the only Trump property to use foreign workers.

A job order request was filed by Trump Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, in February petitioning for H-2A temporary work visas for 23 foreign workers to fill vineyard farming positions was posted by the U.S. Department of Labor. Trump Vineyard Estates, LLC. is currently run and owned by the president's son, Eric Trump.

The H-2A temporary agricultural program allows for employers to bring in nonimmigrant foreign workers into the country to fill seasonal or temporary agricultural jobs or services when they expect a scarcity of domestic workers to fulfill those needs. The Department of Labor requires that employers using this program show that they were unable to fill their seasonal needs with domestic workers.

Rather than requesting workers for the winter season like in Florida, vineyard administrators are asking for workers from the beginning of April through the end of October.

In December, the vineyard filed the same H-2A visa request form petitioning to hire six foreign agricultural workers to fill vineyard farm work positions from the end of January through the second half of June.

Modeling

Trump's foray into the fashion world through his eponymous modeling agency also led to requests for foreign worker visas.

At Trump Model Management, H-1B visas were used for some of the foreign-born models. Those visas are set aside for specialty occupations, including modeling.

Despite his company's former use of that type of visa, Trump took a shot at that particular category during the campaign.

“I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions,” read a statement posted to Trump’s website in March 2016.

Trump has criticized companies that use the H-1B program, including Disney, ABC News' parent company. Firms have argued that foreign workers are brought in not to save money but to take on seasonal or specialized jobs that cannot otherwise be filled.

Criticism of the program, which came from both Trump and other Republican presidential candidates during the campaign, doesn't appear to have slowed the its popularity, however. Requests for H-1B visas reached the cap set for fiscal year 2018 in just five days earlier this month.

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