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California delegates hold up signs as they cheer during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA. (AP) California delegates hold up signs as they cheer during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA. (AP)

California delegates hold up signs as they cheer during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman July 28, 2016

Bloomberg says Trump bashes immigrants yet hires overseas workers

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg portrayed Donald Trump as a hypocrite on immigration in a speech at the Democratic National Convention.

While Trump wants to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, he also uses the system to his advantage to hire foreigners, Bloomberg said in his endorsement of Hillary Clinton July 27, 2016.

Trump "games the U.S. visa system so he can hire temporary foreign workers at low wages," Bloomberg said.

While the accusation that Trump "games the system" is tough language, the real estate tycoon has hired temporary foreign workers to fill typically low-wage jobs at his properties. We will explain how he did it.

H-2B visas

We couldn’t reach a spokesman for Bloomberg, however, it’s likely he was referring to Trump hiring foreign workers at his Mar-A-Lago Club, an exclusive eating club in a mansion in Palm Beach County, Florida. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made a similar attack during the primary.

The club has sought H-2B visas for low-skilled, low-wage workers such as cooks, wait staff and housekeepers. H-2B visas are legal — Congress has set the cap at 66,000 per year — and its agricultural counterpart is the H-2A visa. The vast majority of the workers on these two visas programs nationwide are young Mexican men, although news reports say Trump sought workers from Europe.

Employers argue they need these temporary workers to fill jobs Americans don’t want, while critics say the workers can be exploited. Since the visas are tied to a particular job, the foreigners can’t simply jump ship for a better paying job at another resort. The worker is paid based on the prevailing wage or minimum wage.

Since 2010, nearly 300 U.S. residents applied or were referred for jobs at Mar-A-Lago, but only 17 were hired, the New York Times reported in February. Meanwhile, Mar-A-Lago sought more than 500 visas for foreign workers. (The visas were also sought at some of his other properties.) We don’t know how many people actually used the visas and became employees.

To obtain the visas, businesses must prove they were unsuccessful at filling positions with Americans or legal residents.

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the resort posted jobs through CareerSource Florida, the local workforce development boards throughout the state.

A U.S. Labor Department spokesman told PolitiFact Florida previously that 93 people applied for 250 seasonal job openings at the resort. Four were hired, while 79 didn’t answer interview requests or turned down jobs (10 applications were classified with unknown status).

Documents the resort later filed with the Labor Department showed that many of the American applicants weren’t hired because they didn’t meet requirements. Some applicants didn’t want to work split shifts, lacked experience, wanted full-time jobs instead of part time, or didn’t respond when the resort contacted them.

After that process, the Labor Department certified 685 H-2B visas for the Mar-A-Lago Club between 2008 and 2015.

The New York Times asked Trump why he hired so many foreign workers when Americans applied for the same positions.

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"The only reason they wouldn’t get a callback is that they weren’t qualified, for some reason," Trump replied. "There are very few qualified people during the high season in the area."

But some experts question Trump’s assessment that it’s hard to find local help.

In 2015, CareerSource assisted in placing nearly 1,800 candidates in hospitality jobs in Palm Beach County. But Mar-A-Lago didn’t show much interest in using the free service.

Tom Veenstra, senior director of support services at CareerSource in Palm Beach County, told PolitiFact Florida that the first time his office received a request for helping finding workers was September 2015. (That was shortly after one of the first news reports, by Reuters, about Trump’s foreign hiring practices.)

Since that time, Mar-A-Lago used the office to hire just one person, a banquet server.

"We called the HR director after the hire, and she said they were pleased with the hire and the candidates we sent them," Veenstra said. "There has been nothing else since then."

So is Trump gaming the system?

Gabriel "Jack" Chin, a professor at University of California Davis School of Law, said many of these companies say they can’t find American workers but only put in minimal effort.

"One answer is ‘yes, this is gaming the system, but everybody does it,’ in the sense that the labor certification standards are widely thought to be evaded in the way that Mar-A-Lago has done in the past," Chin said.

Trump spokesman Stephen Miller referred us to Trump’s reply during the March 10 debate in Miami when he defended the use of these visas.

"I'm a businessman," Trump said. "These are laws. These are regulations. These are rules. We're allowed to do it. And frankly, because of the devaluations that other countries -- the monetary devaluations that other countries are constantly doing and brilliantly doing against us, it's very, very hard for our companies in this country, in our country, to compete. So I will take advantage of it; they're the laws. But I'm the one that knows how to change it. Nobody else on this dais knows how to change it like I do, believe me."

Miller said that Trump has opposed legislation to expand the visa program and pledged to reform visa programs to protect American workers.  

Our ruling

Bloomberg says Trump "games the U.S. visa system so he can hire temporary foreign workers at low wages."

Trump sought visas for hundreds of foreign workers to fill temporary positions at his Mar-A-Lago Club in Florida in recent years. Hundreds of U.S. applicants either applied or were referred for the jobs, but only a handful were hired.

There is some debate about whether those applicants were qualified or not.

Trump has used a legal program to obtain workers with H-2B visas. Saying he "games" the system is harsh language, and an expert says the process used by Trump is common.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Washington Post The Fix, "The CNN Miami debate transcript, annotated," March 10, 2016

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump attacked for hiring hundreds of foreign workers on H-2B visas," 2016

American Immigration Council, "A guide to S 744," July 10, 2013

Ted Cruz campaign, TV ad, May 2, 2016

Mar-A-Lago, Website, Accessed May 3, 2016

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services, H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers, Accessed May 3, 2016

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services, Application for visas, Accessed May 3, 2016

Economic Policy Institute, The H-2B temporary foreign worker program

Reuters, "Donald Trump’s Companies have sought visas to import at least 1,100 workers," Aug. 15, 2015

CBS4, "Exclusive: Trump’s Use Of Foreign Workers In Florida Questioned," Sept. 22, 2015

Palm Beach Post, "Why is 'job-creator' Trump hiring foreigners at Mar-a-Lago?" Sept. 27, 2015

New York Times, "Donald Trump to Foreign Workers for Florida Club: You’re Hired," Feb. 25, 2016

CNN, "Trump's Mar-a-Lago hires hundreds of foreign workers," March 18, 2016

Associated Press, "Trump used foreign student labor he pledges to ban," March 14, 2016

MSNBC, "Trump Continues Fox Battle in MSNBC Interview," Sept. 24, 2015

Politico, "New immigration fight looms in Congress,"May 3, 2016

PolitiFact, "We Googled 'Trump Polish workers.' Here's what we found," Feb. 25, 2016

PolitiFact Florida, "5 things to know about the fight between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz on immigration,"Jan. 6, 2016

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Mar-A-Lago job postings, accessed March 7, 2016

U.S. Department of Labor, Mar-A-Lago applications for temporary employment certification (H-2B), accessed April 8, 2016

U.S. Department of Labor, OFLC performance data, accessed May 3, 2016

Government Accountability Office, H-2A and H-2B visa programs, March 2015

Interview, Brian Phillips, Ted Cruz campaign spokesman, May 3, 2016

Interview, Egan Reich, U.S. Department of Labor spokesperson, May 3, 2016

Interview, Morgan McCord, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman, May 3, 2016

Interview, William Cocks, State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs spokesman, May 3, 2016

Interview, Steven Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies spokesman, May 3, 2016

Interview, Greg Schell, Migrant Farmworker Justice Project Florida Legal Services attorney, May 3, 2016

Interview, Ben Johnson, American Immigration Lawyers Association executive director, May 3, 2016

Interview, Stephen Miller, Donald Trump spokesman, July 27, 2016

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Bloomberg says Trump bashes immigrants yet hires overseas workers

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