Trump used foreign student labor he pledges to ban

Published 9:47 am Monday, March 14, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — If elected president, Donald Trump has pledged to scrap a work visa program that brings 300,000 student workers each year to the U.S. Among the businesses that would be forced to stop hiring foreign labor: Trump’s own.

The visa, known as the J-1, purports to offer a “cultural exchange” and give American businesses access to guest workers’ “specialized skills,” according to the State Department. Trump says it’s a simply a conciliatory gesture aimed at corporate interests seeking cheap labor — and he’d replace it “with a resume bank for inner city youth provided to all corporate subscribers to the J-1 visa program.”

Yet Trump’s hotel in Chicago has been a regular user of J-1 visas, according to workers at the hotel and Irish students who worked there. The nexus of the hiring has been the hotel’s elite Terrace Restaurant, though other J-1 students have been placed at reception and at other hotel eating establishments.

Email newsletter signup

“I don’t understand his mindset by saying that he’s abolishing the J-1s visa,” said Sibéal Ní Cearbhalláin, a master’s student in Dublin, who met Trump during the summer of 2013 while working as a hostess on the Terrace. “I’m not sure he’s aware of the number of Irish students who go over and work for him.”

In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, Trump said that his approach to J-1 visas would be different as president than it had been as a businessman. During Thursday’s presidential debate, Trump said that his use of visa programs made him familiar with their details — and therefore the best to reform them. Describing a different category of visas to hire foreign highly skilled workers, Trump said: “It’s something that I frankly use and I shouldn’t be allowed to use it. We shouldn’t have it. Very, very bad for workers.”