During a Republican primary debate last February, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida seized a moment. He asserted that even though Donald Trump the candidate was attacking undocumented immigrants, Trump the businessman had used 200 undocumented Polish workers to build Trump Tower, the president-elect’s gilded Gotham high-rise.
This foreign-worker imbroglio involving Trump—there are more—led to a court ruling in 1991 that Trump associates were in on a plan to stiff a laborers’ union out of pension benefits by underpaying the Poles. Trump professed not to know about the workers’ status, according to reports, and he appealed. Fifteen years later, though, after some of the Poles went public in news reports about wage and safety violations, Trump ended the protracted legal battle with a sealed settlement.
“He brings up something from 30 years ago,” Trump said at the debate, lashing back at Rubio. Trump said laws were different then. “It worked out very well,” he said with a shrug. “Everybody was happy.”
But millions of Americans who are married or otherwise related to other undocumented people are not at all happy today—and they can’t afford to shrug off the past like Trump. Employers who have stepped up over the years to admit that many employees are likely undocumented are also dismayed. They fear that Trump’s election means the end of a long quest for immigration reform that recognizes that most undocumented workers are not the “criminals” or “bad hombres” that Trump excoriated during the campaign. Instead, they’re the spouses and parents of U.S. citizens, longtime co-workers and neighbors and home and business owners—and their issues, problems and challenges are far more complex than Trump’s heated rhetoric would make it appear.
“Our members are scared out of their wits,” said Kim Anderson, a Minnesotan who leads American Families United. The group represents U.S. citizens with undocumented spouses who are unable to legalize those spouses under current immigration laws without great risks.
By Susan Ferriss for THE DAILY BEAST
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