Do you want to stop immigrant job theft? Start with Mar-a-Lago

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Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida on January 18, 2021.

Governor Ron DeSantis recently caused a stir by sending Florida law enforcement officers to the Mexican border to hunt down illegal immigrants.

“They have made over 2,000 arrests, over 100 capital crime arrests, and they say that nearly 70% of those who banned them indicated that their ultimate destination was the state of Florida,” DeSantis announced at a news conference in July .

Immigrants come to Florida to work. Yes, but that’s hardly a headline.

Other Frank Cerabino columns:

Frank Cerabino

Checkpoint Mar-a-Lago

If DeSantis’ goal is to prevent foreign workers from coming here to steal jobs from the Floridians, I suggest he relocate his stunt troupe to Mar-a-Lago on the Mexican border.

Because there are a number of fur traders who go to Palm Beach to take away jobs that Americans would otherwise do.

In Palm Beach County alone, 38 high-end clubs, resorts and hotels have announced that they will recruit 2,531 foreign workers in the coming months.

The workers are brought in by the U.S. Department of Labor under an H-2B visa program that began in 1943 to import Jamaicans to cut sugar cane in the United States, a job domestic workers refused to do.

Over the years, the H-2A program for farm workers has been expanded to include an H-2B program for landscaping, forestry, construction and hospitality professions.

Accept legal American jobs

Making beds in a resort or waiting tables in a Florida country club dining room is hardly the kind of terrible backbreaking work that inspired the Visa program in the first place.

But it has given American employers what they want: foreign workers.

Today, luxury resorts are using the government program to hire captive, obedient workers from overseas rather than dealing with the whims of domestic workers, who are more mobile, more legit, and scarcer.

Despite all this “America first” nonsense, it is really true that former President Donald Trump’s clubs in Palm Beach County already have 87 courses in Mar-a-Lago, five on his Trump International Golf Course and 19 in his golf club in Jupiter have reserved for foreign workers in the next season.

And his clubs are not alone in this.

The Department of Labor sets a national limit on H-2B visas and grants 66,000 foreign workers permission to work these seasonal, non-agricultural jobs.

The idea is that these are terrible temporary jobs that Americans don’t want to do themselves. But I guess you can find an American worker willing to pay up to $ 28 an hour to work at a country club during the season.

American workers a last resort

Tom Veenstra, senior director of support services at CareerSource Palm Beach County, a local employment agency, said orders for overseas workers from local resorts and clubs are coming in earlier than ever this year as the hospitality industry grapples with COVID labor shortages .

“We expect more of this to be received as hospitality employers continue to struggle to hire staff – permanent, seasonal, full-time and part-time,” said Veenstra. “In addition to incentives and other efforts to retain talent, some are turning to foreign workers to fill these positions.”

Foreign worker jobs pay between $ 10.09 an hour and $ 28.68 an hour.

Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in June, lower than Florida’s 5.7 percent for the tenth consecutive month.

The leisure and hospitality sector leads the way in employment growth, with new hires up 17.1 percent last year, prompting employers to increase employment through new wage and performance incentives, the signing of bonuses and, in some cases, payments for jobs according to the labor force are looking for interviews.

Many clubs and resorts in the area have relied on hiring foreign workers, even during less demanding times.

Trump and the owners of several other luxury resorts have been doing this for years, claiming they need these workers because Americans are either unqualified or unwilling to take the seasonal jobs.

But in Trump’s case, there is little effort to recruit American citizens in his clubs for the dozen of jobs reserved each year for foreign workers.

“According to our 2006 records, we did not receive any regular assignments from Mar-a-Lago except for a banquet server position in September 2015,” said Veenstra. “Neither did we receive regular work assignments from either of the two Trump golf clubs in Palm Beach County.”

That year, the requests for foreign labor came at a time when DeSantis was cleaning up on the Mexican border and complaining about undocumented immigrants coming to Florida to work.

It also came months after DeSantis and the Republican-led Florida Legislature proposed significant labor restrictions with the passage of an e-verify labor bill that featured loopholes.

After years of promoting the need to stop illegal immigrants from working in Florida, lawmakers passed law making employers responsible for only hiring workers whose legal status could be verified.

Instead, Florida law exempts farms – the top illegal labor employers – from complying with the rules.

The law also exempts all companies with fewer than 150 employees from complying with the e-verify requirement. Small and medium-sized businesses, such as restaurants and construction companies, also receive a permit to comply with Florida Labor Law.

Under the first draft of the bill, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) had an opportunity to review any company that fell under the law’s compliance requirements. And if they breached, the company would have to pay a $ 500 fine.

But that too has been deleted from the law.

Under the passed law, any company that breaks the law can sign an affidavit stating that it will comply with the law within 30 days.

And in order for the Florida DEO to be activated to look for illegal workers, there is a vampire-like requirement: you must be invited. The state cannot indiscriminately send out investigators to check the immigration status of workers in their employment locations.

To sum it up: Florida, as always, is heavily reliant on foreign labor. And it will give them jobs, whether they come here legally or illegally.

As for our governor who signed the bogus e-verify bill, well, he’s just a tribute on the Mexican border because he thinks his way to re-election is to go to the Floridians who don’t know how dependent they are on foreign labor.

fcerabino@gannett.com

@FranklyFlorida

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