By David A. Fahrenthold and Joshua Partlow,
An undocumented immigrant who worked for President Trump’s private company — and then spoke publicly about Trump’s longtime reliance on undocumented workers — is now facing deportation proceedings, her attorney said Thursday.
Victorina Morales, 47, had asked the U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant her asylum because of violence in her home country of Guatemala.
But that agency rejected her request, saying Morales had waited too long to apply, according to a letter from the agency. Applications for asylum must be filed within a year of arrival in the U.S.
Morales did not file hers until she had been in the country for 19 years. She argued for an exception to the one-year rule, on the grounds that circumstances had changed: violence in Guatemala had worsened, and now she was more of a target because of her public profile.
The agency rejected that argument. Instead, it said, “your application for asylum has been referred to an immigration judge for adjudication in removal proceedings,” the letter said. It was signed by the director of the agency’s Newark, asylum office.
If the judge rejects Morales’ application, she could be deported, according to her attorney, Anibal Romero. “The immigration machine has started, to get her out of the country,” Romero said.
Morales was given a court date on August 26, but is unlikely to face deportation then, Romero said. Immigration proceedings can take a year or more.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not respond to questions about Morales’ application. Morales declined to comment through her lawyer.
Morales, who entered the U.S. illegally in 1999, worked for five years as a housekeeper at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., cleaning the villas used by Trump and his family. She was close enough to see family arguments, and to learn Trump’s personal habits: Irish Spring soap in the shower, two and a half containers of Tic Tacs on the bureau, and Bronx Colors face makeup at the ready, The Washington Post reported last year.
The job required Morales to be present but nearly invisible. In late 2018, however, Morales and a former Trump employee, Sandra Diaz, decided to make themselves visible — and reveal that Trump had employed undocumented workers. Morales told The Washington Post last year that she was motivated to come forward by Trump’s harsh comments about undocumented immigrants.
“This is bad. This is not normal,” Morales recalled thinking. “He is acting this way knowing that we are working for him inside.”
Morales and Diaz told their story to the New York Times. Afterward, The Post identified dozens of undocumented immigrants who had worked for Trump properties, over a period of more than a decade.
After Morales and Diaz went public, however, the Trump Organization began firing its undocumented workers: The Post identified at least 18 workers who were fired, from at least five Trump properties.
The Trump Organization said it had been deceived by its workers, and that it fired them as soon as it was aware of their undocumented status. “Our employees are like family, but when presented with fake documents, an employer has little choice,” Eric Trump, who runs his father’s business day-to-day, told The Post last year.
Morales quit her job at Bedminster after going public. Last year, she spoke at several political events, including a protest outside one of Trump’s campaign rallies.
“We are here to show our faces not just for ourselves, but for the 11 million [undocumented] immigrants who are here in the country,” Morales said at a news conference that day.