A Guatemalan living in the U.S. illegally who says she faced abusive working conditions as a maid at Donald Trump‘s New Jersey golf club doesn’t regret speaking out, even though she might lose her job and be deported.
Victorina Morales told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that she can’t go back to Guatemala because her family has received death threats, but that she had to stand up for other workers without legal documents at the club who have been ridiculed by a supervisor as “donkeys” and “dogs.”
“We need to come out and defend ourselves,” said 47-year-old Morales, brushing away tears. “I had enough with suffering.”
Morales, who said she has not been told definitively that she’s been fired, said that at least a dozen other workers at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster did not have legal documentation.
Morales and another cleaning woman at the club, Sandra Diaz, said that they used phony Social Security and permanent residency documents to get hired, their supervisors knew it and that many employees there also lack legal documents. They both said they worked at Trump’s house at the club cleaning his clothes and making his bed and were angered by his remarks describing immigrants in the U.S. illegally as violent.
They said his comments may have encouraged what they describe as rampant verbal abuse at the resort.
“The president says that in the places he owns he does not hire any undocumented workers. …It is a lie,” said Diaz, 46, a native of Costa Rica who worked at the club in 2010 to 2013.
The two women’s account was first reported by The New York Times on Thursday. The Times subsequently reported that two other immigrants who worked at the club came forward Friday to say that they lived illegally in the U.S. when they hired.
The Trump Organization said in emailed statement that it has strict hiring practices and that any workers with false papers will be terminated. A spokesman for the White House did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Morales said that a supervisor at the club helped her get phony working papers. She said another supervisor pushed her against a wall three times, told her to stop speaking Spanish and threatened her with deportation if she complained.
“Every morning I would tell myself, ‘Just ignore whatever they yell at you. I need this job,'” said Morales, a mother of three in their 20s, all living in the U.S.
Diaz said she once witnessed a manager pull the hair of a worker without legal papers.
The two women are now considering a lawsuit against the Trump Organization for workplace abuse and discrimination. Morales said she is also seeking asylum.
Trump has called for a crackdown on immigrants living in the country illegally. In addition to demanding funding for a wall on the Mexican border, his administration has stepped up workplace raids and urged companies to screen workers more carefully.
He has also funded an expansion of E-Verify, a federal database that allows employers to check electronically whether people are authorized to work in the U.S.
The Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster is not on a list of employers that have registered to use E-Verify. A few other Trump properties such as Mar-a-Lago in Florida are registered.
Morales said that during Trump’s presidential campaign, hours for workers at the resort whom she thought were in the country illegally were cut. She was told she couldn’t clean Trump’s house anymore.
After Trump was elected, Morales said a manager told her she needed new Social Security and green cards showing permanent residency, and the manager helped her procure them with help from a maintenance worker.
Morales said that she witnessed the murder of her father when she was 7. Her father-in-law was also killed back home after she crossed the border into the U.S. in 1999. She said her mother-in-law called her in the U.S. to say she couldn’t come back because of death threats against the family.
For her part, Diaz said she arrived in the U.S. in 2009 and ended up staying after her visitor’s visa ran out. She said she now has legal documents to work.
The women’s lawyer, Anibal Romero, has called for federal and state investigations into what he describes as a “toxic environment” that was used to intimidate the two women, “leaving them fearful for their safety and the safety of their families.”