Can Sheriff Arpaio's Dirty Endorsement Clean Trump's Illegal Immigration Problem?

Trump relied on undocumented workers to amass his non-fortune


Just when you think that this Republican primary can't sink any lower, it does. The latest low point came during last

Donald Trump Hair
DonkeyHotey / Foter / CC BY

night's brawl when Donald Trump proudly proclaimed that he had been endorsed by Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio, H&R readers will recall, is Arizona's notorious sheriff who terrorized undocumented workers and abused prisoners for fun. His draconian shenanigans have cost Maricopa County taxpayers  $142 million in legal expenses, settlements and court awards and included: dressing male inmates in pink underwear, forcing a pregnant undocumented woman to deliver in shackles, instituting the world's first juvenile chain gang, serving fetid food in jail, and packing thousands of prisoners into a hastily constructed "tent city" ("concentration camp" in his own words) in 145 degrees.

Yet there was Trump touting his tough-on-illegals bona fides by whipping out his inner Valley Girl and boasting that Arpaio has "totally endorsed me." (He's probably saving up David Duke's endorsement for the next debate.)

But Trump maybe hating on illegals now, yet he has been far from averse to using them to build his own (non) fortune (there is some credible evidence that his bank balance estimated worth may be $250 million, no bigger than what he inherited, his constant paeans to his own wealth and success notwithstanding). And even Arapaio's dirty endorsement may not be enough to clean up Trump's sordid record.

As Rubio pointed out last night, Trump relied on 200 illegal Polish workers to build the Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan. This saved Trump a bundle in union wages and benefits that he would have had to pay had he hired American workers.

But that is not even the worst of it. He refused to pay this Polish brigade — as it came to be called — even the meager wages he had promised. How meager? $4 to $5 an hour for 12-hour shifts with nothing extra for overtime.

With the help of unions, the workers launched a $4 million class action lawsuit that lingered in courts for decades until finally The Donald, after vowing to never settle out-of-court, settled out-of-court for an undisclosed amount.

Trump says that he should not have been held responsible given that his contractor hired those workers not him. But a similar defense didn't work for poor Mitt Romney when he tried to justify the undocumented workers tending to his lawn.

What's more, this was hardly Trump's only foray with foreign workers. As The New York Times has reported, Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, which is "one of the most highly regarded private clubs in the world," is teeming with foreign labor:

Since 2010, nearly 300 United States residents have applied or been referred for jobs as waiters, waitresses, cooks and housekeepers there. But according to federal records, only 17 have been hired. In all but a handful of cases, Mar-a-Lago sought to fill the jobs with hundreds of foreign guest workers from Romania and other countries.

 [Trump] pursued more than 500 visas for foreign workers at Mara-Lago since 2010, according to the United States Department of Labor, while hundreds of domestic applicants failed to get the same jobs. The visas are issued through one of a handful of legal and often debated programs through which employers can temporarily hire foreign workers when American labor is not available. As part of its applications for the visas submitted to the Labor Department, Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago attested that in the vast majority of cases, it was unable to fill the positions with American workers, or, as he told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" in September, "getting help in Palm Beach during the season is almost impossible." Asked why his club must seek so many foreign workers when Americans have applied for the same positions, Mr. Trump said in a telephone interview from Mar-a-Lago this month: "The only reason they wouldn't get a callback is that they weren't qualified, for some reason. There are very few qualified people during the high season in the area."

There would be nothing wrong with this, except for the rank hypocrisy: A man whose whole presidential campaign is based on demonizing American employers who hire foreign workers and allegedly deprive Americans of jobs is trying to hang on to his fortune, such as it is, by hiring foreign workers and depriving Americans of jobs.

But the candidate who is truly pathetic on immigration in this election cycle is not Trump. It isn't even Cruz who thinks that Trump's anti-amnesty screeds don't go far enough; no one expected any decencey from him any way. It is Rubio. Instead of proudly sticking to his high-minded, pro-immigration rhetoric, he has gone Trump-lite by: trying to distance himself from the Gang of Eight reforms, especially the provision relating to the legalization of undocumented workers; huffing-and-puffing about securing the border instead of creating a guest worker program to solve the undocumented worker problem; saber-rattling against Syrian refugees after once making a noble case for taking more Middle Eastern refugees because that's what "America stands for." (Say what you will about Jeb Bush's sad candidacy, but at least he stuck to his guns on this issue.)

Last night was undoubtedly Rubio's strongest performance. It was heart warming to watch him smack Trump around and expose him for the con man he is. Whether this will translate into any victories for him on Super Tuesday remains to be seen.

But even if it does, they'll be pyrrhic victories given that they'll come at the price of accepting Trump's ugly terms.