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Saturday, October 21, 2017

A huge centerpiece of Donald Trump’s HUGE presidential pitch is to bash U.S. immigration policy while promising more jobs for Americans.

Yet at Trump’s ultra-posh Palm Beach resort, foreign-born workers have a much better chance of being hired than locals who seek the same positions.

“Getting help in Palm Beach during the high season is almost impossible,” the Big Orange Trumpster grumped to MSNBC last fall. Cue the violins.

According to the New York Times, since 2010 at least 296 American workers have applied or were referred to Trump’s oceanfront Mar-a-Lago Club to fill openings for cooks, housekeepers and wait staff.

Only 17 U.S. applicants were hired, according to federal records. That’s slightly less than 6 percent. The rest of those Mar-a-Lago jobs were filled by foreign workers, many from Romania, for whom Trump’s club obtained legal visas.

Of those many Americans who didn’t get hired, Trump said: “The only reason they wouldn’t get a callback is that they weren’t qualified, for some reason.”

A few undoubtedly weren’t qualified, but out of nearly 300 there had to be way more than 17 who could make the cut. Otherwise it’s a harsh slam on the diverse hospitality trade in the Palm Beach area.

Maybe the Trumpster has different employment standards for his kitchen staff and waiters — for instance, they have to speak Romanian. That would definitely narrow, and whiten, the labor pool.

Or perhaps it’s just cheaper for Trump to hire and keep foreign workers than it is to pay Americans for the same jobs. This is exactly what he condemns other corporations for doing when they outsource.

The guest-worker program allows companies to bring in foreign labor when there is an insufficient supply of U.S. workers. It undeniably helps firms in places that have limited work-force populations.

But job-placement agencies in Palm Beach County (pop. 1.3 million) say there’s no shortage of qualified local applicants for seasonal openings at hotels, restaurants and even fancy clubs that charge a $100,000 member initiation fee, like Mar-a-Lago.

For big resorts, hiring foreign employees is more attractive because the U.S. Department of Labor sets a “prevailing wage” based on the type of job and the location.

Applicants from other countries are restricted to working only for the company that sponsors their entry. That means they can’t leave for higher-paying positions without securing new visas, which is often a time-consuming hassle.

Consequently, guest workers tend to stay with the same employer even if they don’t receive raises. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says guest workers are also less likely to complain about workplace conditions, because they fear losing their visa status and being sent home.

By contrast, American workers have been known to speak up.

Despite his spittle-flecked tirades against corporations that replace U.S. labor with foreign labor, Trump loves, loves, loves the guest-worker program.

Labor Department records show that, during the past five years, he has sought more than 500 H-2B visas to bring foreign workers to Mar-a-Lago. He has also used the same method to fill positions at his Virginia vineyard and golf resorts in Jupiter, West Palm Beach and New Jersey.

The H-2B visa is strictly for temporary, low-skill, non-agricultural jobs for which there aren’t enough “able, willing, qualified and available” U.S. workers. How many such visas have been granted to Trump properties is hard to ascertain, because final approval comes from the State Department and Homeland Security.

But, based on the known applications, fewer than six of every 100 American workers who seek jobs as waiters, cooks or housekeepers at Mar-a-Lago are hired.

Statistically, they’d have a better chance of getting into Harvard. For companies that really can’t fill all their jobs, there’s nothing wrong with recruiting foreign labor on temporary visas. It meets production needs and also benefits the workers, most of whom make enormous sacrifices to come here.

But Trump’s case for hiring visa workers instead of Americans is flimsy. South Florida has 6.2 million residents and a vast service industry — yet he goes all the way to central Europe in search of employees.

And this is the same self-righteous screamer who allegedly won’t eat Oreos because Nabisco cut jobs in Chicago to expand a facility in Mexico.

Hey, Trumpster. You care so much about the plight of American workers? Try hiring more of them.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)
(c) 2016, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: A woman smiles after getting an autograph by U.S. Republican presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump on her hat after he spoke at a campaign rally South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada January 21, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker