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Seeking to portray Donald Trump as a hypocrite on immigration, Hillary Clinton claimed during the third presidential debate that the billionaire candidate used undocumented workers to build his New York City skyscraper.
In a jab at Trump, Clinton said her immigration plan would bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and protect them from employers like Trump taking advantage of them.
"And Donald knows a lot about this," she said. "He used undocumented labor to build the Trump Tower. He underpaid undocumented workers, and when they complained, he basically said what a lot of employers do: ‘You complain, I'll get you deported.’ "
This line of attack is similar to one used by one of Trump’s primary rivals, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who in February accused him of hiring "illegal" Polish workers on a construction project decades ago. We rated Rubio’s claim Half True because he attributed more blame to Trump and mentioned a separate issue of a legal settlement. There’s also more evidence now to support Clinton’s simpler statement.
Between 1979 and 1980, Trump hired a contractor to demolish a Manhattan building to make way for the eventual Trump Tower. That contractor in turn hired local union workers as well as 200 undocumented Polish workers to meet the tight deadlines.
Media reports indicated that the Polish employees were paid off the books, working 12-hour shifts every day for only $4 to $5 an hour without overtime pay.
Time magazine reported that Trump allegedly sought out the workers after seeing them on another construction job, and then threatened through his lawyer to contact immigration services during a dispute over unpaid wages.
In 1983, union members hired to work on the project sued Trump, a union boss and the contractor for using the undocumented Polish workers to undercut their pensions and welfare funds. The future Republican presidential candidate appeared in court in 1990 and denied knowing that the workers weren’t in the country legally, but a Manhattan judge ended up ruling against Trump and ordered him to pay the workers more than $325,000.
Trump appealed the case, which dragged on for another decade, before quietly settling out of court in 1999.
The Republican candidate’s alleged use of undocumented workers has continued even into the current presidential campaign.
Several construction workers interviewed by the Washington Post in July 2015 said they were hired to help renovate the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington despite residing in the country illegally. A Trump spokeswoman at the time said his business and contractors followed all applicable immigration laws.
Clinton claimed that Trump "used undocumented labor to build the Trump Tower."
There’s no question that undocumented workers were hired to do demolition work on the future site of Trump Tower. Questions remain as to how involved Trump was in the construction process and hiring of the 200 Polish laborers, but Clinton is factually correct to say that undocumented labor helped construct Trump’s New York skyscraper.
We rate this statement as True.
Email interview with Josh Schwerin, Hillary Clinton spokesman, Oct. 19, 2016
Washington Post, "At Trump hotel site, immigrant workers wary," July 6, 2015
Time, "What Donald Trump Knew About Undocumented Workers at His Signature Tower," Aug. 25, 2016
PolitiFact, "We Googled 'Trump Polish workers.' Here's what we found," Feb. 25, 2016
New York Times, "Trump Says He Didn't Know He Employed Illegal Aliens," July 13, 1990
Daily Beast, "Trump Tower Was Built on Undocumented Immigrants’ Backs," July 8, 2015
New York Times, "Judge Says Trump Tower Builders Cheated Union on Pension Funds," April 27, 1991
New York Times, "After 15 Years in Court, Workers' Lawsuit Against Trump Faces Yet Another Delay," June 14, 1998
New York Daily News, "DEAL SEALED IN TRUMP TOWER SUIT," March 8, 1999
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