In the latest twist in Donald Trump's controversial presidential campaign, a Washington Post report has revealed that the mogul's newest luxury hotel venture — just a stone's throw away from the White House — has been relying on some undocumented workers as part of its construction.
The property tycoon and former reality TV star has made relentlessly harsh border control a central element in his promise "to make America great again."
Trump has been under fire ever since he made derogatory comments about Latin American immigrants when announcing his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination in June.
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," Trump declared. "They're sending people that have lots of problems…. they're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
Major companies with ties to Trump, including NBC, Univision, and Macy's, have since severed their relationships with him following the comments. But instead of backing down from his inflammatory statements, Trump has stubbornly clung to his words.
"Clearly, NBC and Macy's support illegal immigration," Trump said in a statement. "Which is totally detrimental to the fabric of our once great country."
On Monday, Trump took to Twitter to double down on his anti-immigrant stance.
According to the Post, many of the men working on the $200 million hotel started their journeys in El Salvador, Honduras, or Guatemala, and crossed the US-Mexico border illegally before making their way across the country to Washington. Some were able to claim US citizenship through marriage or refugee status on the grounds that they were escaping civil wars or violence at home. Others acknowledged to the Post that they were working without documentation.
Trump's recent comments hadn't escaped many of the workers in Washington. Some said they were insulted and angry, others that they were concerned that Trump's stance threatened their chances of finding gainful employment, or even their future in the US.
According to research conducted by Pew, there were 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the US in 2012 — half of which were estimated to be Mexican. Unauthorized migrants make up about 5.1 percent of the US labor force, according to the same data.
"Do you think that when we're hanging out there from the eighth floor that we're raping or selling drugs?" Ramon Alvarez, a window worker from El Savador at the Trump site, told The Post. "We're risking our lives and our health. A lot of the chemicals we deal with are toxic."
Lend Lease, the lead contractor hired by Trump, said in a statement that he "requires all contractors performing work at the project to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws."
Michael D. Cohen, the executive vice president and legal counsel to Trump, said that the legality of hiring practices at a Trump site had not been challenged in the past.
Trump has an estimated $2.9 billion worth of commercial and residential real estate, with hosts of well-located luxury hotels in places such as New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Panama City. In addition to the Washington site, two Trump hotels are in the process of being built in Rio de Janeiro and Vancouver.