President Donald Trump hopes to hire 76 foreign workers for low-wage jobs at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter for the 2017-18 tourist season.
The request won’t be affected by the Trump administration’s move this week to offer 15,000 new visas for temporary workers in low-wage jobs. That’s because the new visas, aimed at employers in parts of the country where summer is the peak of the tourism season, expire Sept. 30.
Trump routinely hires foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago, but their employment runs from October through May.
With the national unemployment rate at just 4.4 percent in June, hoteliers and restaurateurs in such summertime tourist destinations as Maine, Michigan and Colorado have complained that they can’t find enough workers to operate.
“Congress gave me the discretionary authority to provide temporary relief to American businesses at risk of significant harm due to a lack of available seasonal workers,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a statement. “As a demonstration of the administration’s commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the Congressionally set annual cap.”
At his Mar-a-Lago Club, Trump hires dozens of foreign workers every year through the U.S. Department of Labor’s H-2B visa program. In 2016, Trump won permission to hire 19 cooks at $12.74 an hour, 30 waiters and waitresses at $11.13 an hour and 15 housekeepers at $10.17 an hour. Their work visas allowed them to work from Oct. 1 through May 31.
This year, Mar-a-Lago hopes to hire 20 cooks at $13.34 an hour (a 4.7 percent annual raise), 35 waiters and waitresses at $11.88 an hour (a 7 percent raise) and 15 housekeepers at $10.33 an hour (a 2 percent raise). Trump also wants to hire six foreign cooks for Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter at a wage of $13.34 an hour.
If the Department of Labor approves the visas, the workers would have permission to work in the United States from Oct. 1, 2017, through May 31, 2018. Trump hasn’t disclosed the nationalities of his workers, but guests who have dined at Mar-a-Lago say foreign waitresses typically come from central Europe.
Trump isn’t alone in looking overseas for low-wage workers. Other Palm Beach County employers, including Boca West Country Club, The Breakers and The Everglades Club also hire foreign workers through the H-2B visa program.
Nationwide, thousands of employers won permission to hire more than 119,000 workers through the H-2B visa program for 2016-17.
In Palm Beach County, employers planned to hire 1,844 foreign workers during the 2016-17 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of federal data. Most of the visas expired at the end of May.
The expansion of the H-2B visa program offers the rare example of Trump embracing immigration and globalization. He kicked off his presidential campaign by calling for a wall along the Mexican border, and he has publicly shamed Carrier Corp., Ford Motor and others for their decisions to move manufacturing jobs to Mexico.
This year, Trump called for a “Buy American and Hire American” policy that would tighten the availability of H-1B visas for high-wage tech workers and crack down on what he termed “fraud and abuse.” And Trump has stepped up deportations of illegal immigrants who have no criminal records in the United States.
During a March 2016 presidential debate, Trump defended his hiring of foreign workers.
“It’s very, very hard to get people,” Trump said. “Other hotels do the exact same thing.”
Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in June, and employers say a tight labor market has created a shortage of workers.
“We are expecting considerably higher demand for hospitality talent this fall-winter season compared to past years,” said Tom Veenstra, spokesman for Career Source Palm Beach County, the public-private placement agency.”Employers are finding that the talent market is extremely competitive for many of these high-demand jobs.”
Democrats, meanwhile, couldn’t resist drawing a contrast between Trump declaring “Made In America” week even as he looks overseas for workers.
“The latest news out of Mar-A-Lago makes it clear that Donald Trump puts his business interests above everything else, including hard-working American families and workers,” Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said in a statement.