By Kate Snow, Tim Stelloh, Rich Gardella, Didi Martinez and Ricardo Montero Hernandez
Two former workers at President Donald Trump's golf club in Westchester County, New York, said they believe people at the highest levels of the club knew they were hiring workers who were living in the U.S. illegally. They also said they believe Trump must have known.
Ten people living in the country illegally who worked at Trump National Golf Club were fired earlier this month, workers interviewed by NBC News and their lawyer said Sunday.
A longtime maintenance worker at Trump’s Westchester club, Gabriel Sedano, was among nine former workers interviewed by NBC News. He said he was the first in the group to find out he no longer had a job.
Sedano said a club manager told him on Jan. 17 that he had a meeting the next day, but Sedano didn’t know what it was about.
During the meeting, Sedano recalled, he was asked if he was in the United States legally.
“I told them no, so … after that they say so the company cannot keep you there,” he said. “I start crying because I told them — like, I've been working for so long.”
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“The only thing I did wrong was work, work and work,” he added.
After the meeting, Sedano met with other workers in the club’s laundry room and told them what happened.
“Everybody got kind of afraid and upset,” he said. “Some of them [were] crying.”
Sedano, who crossed illegally into the United States with his family in 2003, said it was easy to find work at Trump’s property two years later. The club needed employees so badly, he said, that he believes managers didn’t thoroughly check the fraudulent Social Security and green cards that he and other workers provided. It is illegal for workers to present false documents.
Trump, he added, "must've known" his clubs had hired them.It is illegal for workers to present false documents.
Though Sedano had viewed the president as friendly — he said Trump once gave him a $200 tip while he was cleaning the club’s railings — he said he was offended by how the president had taken to describing undocumented immigrants as criminals or worse on the campaign trail and in speeches.
And he said he’d been expecting something to happen since news broke last month that the Trump Organization — the holding company for the president’s hundreds of business — apparently employed undocumented immigrants at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
There, at least one former employee told NBC News that a manager had allegedly helped her obtain fake legal documentation. Several other employees said they were able to get fake legal documentation through friends within their community to present to club managers.
“We knew this was coming,” Sedano said.
Another worker, Margarita Cruz, was told by phone on Jan. 18 that she’d been let go. She recorded the call, and in an audio clip obtained by NBC News, a manager can be heard telling her, “the club must end its employment relationship with you today.”
In a statement Sunday, Eric Trump — who, along with Donald Trump Jr., took over management of their father’s businesses two years ago — said the Trump Organization has “very strict” hiring practices for its “tens of thousands of employees.”
“If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately,” he said. “We take this issue very seriously. This is one of the reasons my father is fighting so hard for immigration reform. The system is broken.”
The workers' lawyer, Anibal Romero, said he asked federal authorities to examine the Westchester club’s hiring practices. He also brought the workers to Washington on Sunday to meet with congressional Democrats.
Editor's Note on 1/29/2019: In an earlier version of this story, we reported that 12 workers were fired. Their lawyer now says 10 workers were fired. The 11th and 12th undocumented workers were seasonal workers. They believe their work at the club will not continue.
Kate Snow is a national correspondent for NBC News.
Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News, based in California.
Rich Gardella is an investigative producer, reporter and digital journalist with NBC News Investigations, based in Washington, D.C.
Didi Martinez is a researcher with the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Ricardo Montero Hernandez
Ricardo Montero Hernandez is a news associate for NBC News, based in New York.