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Trump's New Jersey golf club employs undocumented immigrants, women say

"I told them that I don't have papers, I don't speak English and that I was an immigrant. They said, 'No, it doesn't matter.'"
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Two years ago, when Donald Trump was running for president, he proudly declared that he employed no undocumented immigrants in the construction of his grand Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

That doesn't appear to be true for some of his other properties.

When Victorina Morales went to work in 2013 as a housekeeper at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, "I told them that I don't have papers, I don't speak English and that I was an immigrant," she told NBC News on Thursday in an interview.

"They said, 'No, it doesn't matter,'" she said.

Morales left Guatemala and illegally crossed the U.S. border in 1999, according to The New York Times, which she and a second woman who used to work at the golf club, Sandra Diaz, approached to tell their story in an article published earlier Thursday.

Morales, who still works at the golf club, told NBC News that she knows she could be fired or deported for having come forward.

"But I feel good, because I came out of obscurity, and I'm afloat," she said "Because you get tired of so many humiliations. You get tired of getting treated like a stupid mule in a place where you're serving, trying hard.

"It's difficult, because I have felt humiliated in many ways," she said.

Diaz, who is from Costa Rica and is now a legal resident of the United States, worked at the golf club from 2010 to 2013. She said she was coming forward "because it's time to do so."

"It's no longer a time to stay quiet. It's time to stop hiding, for me especially," she said.

"Everyone who comes to this country loves this country, and I love this country," Diaz said, but "the situation for immigrants right now is very difficult."

Diaz said that in the time since she and Morales spoke out, she had heard from some of her former colleagues at the golf club — one of whom told her that "there will be a lot of people fired, that they're going to have meetings tomorrow."

"I know good things will come out of this," she said. "It is no longer the time to stay silent."

The Trump Organization LLC, the primary holding company for the president's hundreds of businesses, referred NBC News to the White House, which didn't directly address the Times report. It said in a statement:

"We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices. If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately."

NBC News reported in 2016 that Trump Tower in New York, the 58-story crown jewel of Trump's real estate empire, was built using the labor of undocumented Polish immigrants almost 40 years ago.

Trump said during the 2016 campaign that he hadn't known about the workers' legal statuses, and he made illegal immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, promising to build a wall along the southern U.S. border to keep undocumented immigrants out and to carry out mass deportations of those already in the country.

At various times, he has characterized immigrants from Central and South America as "barbaric," as rapists and even as killers of children.

Morales told NBC News that she liked working for Trump, who sometimes gave her unexpected tips.

Once, she said, "I was jumping and jumping so I could reach and clean" a particularly high spot — and "he got out of the cart, and he took the cloth, and he started cleaning."

Trump asked for her name and where she was from, she said. "And so he goes and puts his hand in his pocket and takes out $50 and gave it to me."

But when Trump began running for president, she found his rhetoric about people like her distressing.

"When I saw how he talked about us when he started his presidency, I felt humiliated," she said. "Not just that, but before he was president, I would go to his house to clean, and when he became president, they told me, 'Victoria, you cannot come here anymore.'"

CORRECTION (Dec. 7, 2018, 8:23 a.m ET): An earlier version of this article misstated when Trump Tower in New York was built. It was 40 years ago, not 40 decades.