How two housekeepers took on the president — and revealed that his company employed undocumented immigrants
The Washington Post – by Joshua Partlow, David A. Fahrenthold
BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, N.J. — It was important for Sandra Diaz to be invisible.
Before entering the Trump family villa, she would tie back her hair, pull on latex gloves and step into delicate paper shoe coverings. She knew not to wear makeup or perfume that might leave the faintest trace of her presence.
As Donald Trump’s personal housekeeper, Diaz was dealing with a fussy celebrity owner who presided like a monarch over the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster long before he was elevated to president. She was an immigrant from Costa Rica working illegally for Trump with a fake Social Security card she had bought for $50. Being invisible was her life’s work.
Moving quickly through the two-story house in the mornings, Diaz carried out Trump’s fastidious instructions. In his closet, she would hang six sets of identical golf outfits: six white polo shirts, six pairs of beige pants, six neatly ironed pairs of boxer shorts. She would smear a dollop of Trump’s liquid face makeup on the back of her hand to make sure it hadn’t dried out.
The years of service that Diaz and other undocumented immigrant housekeepers, cooks, landscapers, greenskeepers, waiters, bellhops, farm hands and caddies devoted to the Trump Organization have given them a remarkable vantage point into the unvarnished lives of the now-first family. They have seen poolside tantrums and holiday arguments. They’ve laughed with the in-laws and watched after the grandkids.
Their recollections also show how Trump’s entrance into presidential politics — denouncing illegal immigrants as criminals and job-stealers — upended their lives and prompted some of them to publicly confront their former boss.
Over the past year, The Washington Post has spoken with 48 people who had worked illegally for the Trump Organization at 11 of its properties in Florida, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. These workers spent years — and in some cases nearly two decades — performing the manual labor that keeps Trump’s resorts clean and their visitors fed.
This story is based on interviews with these workers, many of whom were fired or walked away from their jobs after media reports about their employment.
The Post verified workers’ employment histories by reviewing pay stubs and tax documents and, when possible, corroborating accounts with their colleagues. The workers uniformly contend that their managers were aware of their undocumented status, a topic they said came up during conversations and workplace disputes.
Trump, who still owns the Trump Organization but has left day-to-day control to his elder sons, has said he does not know whether it employs undocumented workers.
“Well, that I don’t know. Because I don’t run it,” he told reporters in July. “But I would say this: Probably every club in the United States has that, because it seems to me, from what I understand, a way that people did business.”
The Post sent White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham a list of the anecdotes that former undocumented employees told about the Trumps’ private quarters at Bedminster and his in-laws.
“The assertions made for this story are not only false, they are a disgusting attempt at invading the privacy of the First Family,” Grisham wrote in response. “This is not journalism — it is fabricated tabloid trash.”
Grisham did not specify which details were inaccurate. She also declined to answer questions about Trump’s longtime employment of undocumented workers and how it squares with his rhetoric about illegal immigration.
The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.
For decades, and well into Trump’s presidency, illegal immigrants lived as Trump’s shadow family — ever present, if rarely considered. Trump had met many of them. There were three questions nearly every immigrant who worked for him was asked as Trump strolled the grounds of his resorts and golf clubs inspecting their work. “Your name. How much time you’d been there. And if you like it,” said Margarita Cruz, a housekeeper. This banter often ended with Trump pulling out $50 and $100 bills for tips.
This transactional relationship of discreet service for long hours and often low pay began to evolve as Trump entered politics on the promise to keep out the upward-striving immigrant workers who crumbed his table and scoured his toilets. When Trump referred to some Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, when he vowed to wall off the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent an immigrant “invasion,” the worry and anger began to build in the kitchens and laundry rooms of his properties.
Trump’s undocumented workers were forced to smile at the stomach-churning comments from wealthy members once he became president. “You’re still here? How come we can’t get rid of you? I’m going to call Trump, you [expletive] Mexican,” Gabriel Juarez, who had been head waiter for a decade at one of Trump’s New York golf clubs, said a member told him jokingly.
It fell to them to scrub off the anti-Trump graffiti scrawled across the mirrors in the men’s locker room at Bedminster one day, and grit their teeth through pep talks by supervisors that they said echoed the boss’s stump speeches: “Now don’t forget, let’s make Mar-a-Lago great again.”
So one day, Diaz, along with Victorina Morales, her successor as Trump’s housekeeper at Bedminster, decided to be seen.
When they spoke in articles in The Post, the New York Times and other publications beginning last December, it was not for money — as some of their shocked and frightened colleagues assumed — or really for politics, they said, but to highlight what they consider a glaring hypocrisy.
Trump, despite his rhetoric, had long employed illegal immigrants, and they were the living proof.
A year later, Diaz and Morales no longer work for Trump. No one is known to have been deported because of the women’s actions, and there is no evidence of legal repercussions for Trump or his company. But the pair have endured the anger of friends and colleagues who say they have betrayed a code of silence that permeates the nation’s underground economy.
They say it was worth it.