Ivan Arellano isn’t happy with his boss, American business mogul and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Arellano, 29, is one of those Mexican immigrants that Trump recently accused of being a criminal and currently works as a mason with other immigrants at the site of a new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“The majority of us are Hispanics, many who came illegally,” Arellano told the Washington Post on Monday. He said he is a citizen of the U.S. through marriage. “We’re all here working very hard to build a better life for our families."
When Trump announced his White House bid last month, he shocked the Hispanic-American community and many of his fellow presidential candidates by saying that most immigrants coming to the U.S. from Mexico are drug traffickers and “rapists.” Trump’s remarks sparked a swift backlash from media companies and other corporations that have cancelled plans to carry TV programming or host events associated with the candidate.
There are about 15 laborers helping to transform the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue into a Trump hotel property. Many of them told the Post that they crossed the U.S-Mexico border illegally.
For Ramon Alvarez, Trump’s remarks disregarded the sacrifices he and fellow laborers make to build American wealth. “Do you think that when we’re hanging out there from the eighth floor that we’re raping or selling drugs?” Alvarez, who is from El Salvador, told the Post. “We’re risking our lives and our health. A lot of the chemicals we deal with are toxic.”
Several of the immigrant laborers working at Trump’s construction site are from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Some have earned U.S. citizenship or legal resident status through political asylum programs that target Central Americans fleeing civil wars or natural disasters. But they also quietly admitted that some workers at Trump’s hotel construction site are in the country illegally.
“Most of the concern is that this escalates into a bigger problem,” Daniel Gonzalez, a 45-year-old sheet metal worker and U.S. citizen from El Salvador, told the Post. “[Trump] might come one day and pretty much tell us to get the heck out of here.”
David Montoya, a 28-year-old immigrant from El Salvador who gained protection from deportation in 2001, fears Trump’s immigrant remarks are a warning that stricter immigration laws could be on the horizon. Montoya told the Post that his hard work has paid off in the 18 years since he arrived to the U.S.
“Actually, we’re [immigrant laborers] more American than him,” he said of Trump.
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said the company and its contractors don't break the rules when hiring at construction sites. “Our contractors are required to have prospective employees produce documentation that establishes identity and employment eligibility in compliance with immigration law,” Hicks said in a statement emailed to the Post.