Trump 'Boasted' Years Ago That Immigrants Kept His Golf Courses 'Beautiful' and 'Green,' Advocate Says

Years before he became president of the United States, Donald Trump boasted to a group of high-profile immigration advocates about how immigrants kept his golf courses "beautiful" and "green."

Immigration advocate Gaby Pacheco said that Trump made the comments during a 2013 meeting at Trump Tower in New York. He was discussing immigration reform with a group of advocates, including Pacheco, which was reported by NBC Latino at the time.

"Mr. Trump boasted about his beautiful green golf course when we were talking about the importance of undocumented people in the labor market," Pacheco told Newsweek.

She thought Trump's comments at the time suggested that the billionaire was aware that undocumented immigrants were working at his golf courses at the time.

Pacheco first gained national recognition in 2004 for her work for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, or Dream Act, of which she is a beneficiary.

Pacheco said she had been invited to meet with Trump as a representative of the Bridge Project, a group aimed at bridging the gap between political parties to generate discussion on immigration reform, along with two other youth immigrant leaders, Jose Machado and Diego Sanchez.

She said that the delegation of youth immigrant leaders had been discussing the realities of what it's like to live in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant and "the fact that undocumented people are here.

"And that's when he started staying, 'Oh, I know. Who do you think keeps my lawns so beautiful?'" Pacheco said. "We were just looking at him like, what? He just admitted that he has [undocumented] people working for him, keeping his golf courses beautiful.

"He also boasted about how beautiful the [golf courses] were and how they were the best golf courses in the world," Pacheco said. "He said it in Trump fashion, really digging in and talking about how beautiful they are. How they're the most beautiful in the world."

The immigration advocate said that while Trump never used the word "undocumented," she and others in the room left certain that Trump's comments suggested that he was aware that undocumented immigrants were working at his golf courses.

Pacheco's assertion is particularly relevant, as earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that the Trump Organization had fired at least 18 undocumented immigrants across five of its New York and New Jersey golf courses. This came after a New York Times report in December revealed that a number of undocumented workers had held positions as housekeepers at the president's National Golf Club in Bedminster.

In a statement to Newsweek, a Trump Organization spokesperson confirmed earlier this month that the organization had "initiated a comprehensive review of employee eligibility across all of our properties" after the "press reported on two individuals who had allegedly falsified documents to gain employment at one of our golf courses.

"As a result of this review and to ensure our absolute compliance with the law, any employee who provided falsified documents was immediately terminated. Terminating one's employment is never something we wish to do. Many of our employees have been with us for years and are an extension of our family. Still, after being confronted with this issue, we had no choice."

The Trump Organization spokesperson added that "to prevent this from happening again, we will soon be instituting E-Verify at all applicable properties and will continue to take swift and appropriate action where necessary."

The 2013 Trump Tower meeting took place weeks after Trump had delivered a keynote address on immigration reform in Iowa, warning that Republicans needed to "do the right thing," but that immigration reform could be a "death wish" for the party, according to NBC Latino's report.

The outlet reported that the meeting between Trump and immigration advocates had been organized by Antonio Tijerino, then president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

The report also quoted Machado, one of the advocates in the room at the time, as saying that Trump had "really listened and asked thoughtful questions" during the meeting.

"We had the opportunity to share our stories and explain why millions of Americans from California, Colorado, Texas, Florida and New York (to name a few states) have come out to say, 'We need to find a solution to our broken immigration system,'" he said.

Machado also said that Trump had told the group, "You've convinced me" on the need for immigration reform, a moment Pacheco also recalled.

"He looked at us and he was nodding his head and saying, 'You've convinced me, you've convinced me," she said. "And we thought, now we're going to have this big ally."

Pacheco said that looking back, she believed that what Trump wanted most in that meeting was for everyone there to like him, adding that he walked them downstairs to the Trump Tower gift shop and "just started gifting us things.

"One of the things he gifted me was...he noticed that I didn't have much jewelry on, and he said, 'You know what would look really good on you, is a watch,' and he told the person, 'Give it to her,' and he said, 'This one is Melania's watch, it's the most beautiful.'

"It was just kind of weird, but it was one of those things where he was trying to make us like him," she said. "It was entertaining and almost innocent."

Pacheco said Trump had also made comments about her physical appearance that made her feel uncomfortable at the time. "He came out, and I remember standing up and he just said something like, 'Oh' about being Latina and me being tall and stuff."

She said she could not recall Trump's exact words, but said, "It was just one of those things where he was trying to make a compliment, but it just felt yucky.

"He was trying to woo us and trying to connect with us and be like, 'I know you,' kind of thing. 'I know your community and I know your people and I know because they're the kind of people who work for me,'" she said.

Despite Trump's rhetoric and crackdown on immigration, with the U.S. leader announcing a national emergency last week in a bid to obtain funding for his long-promised border wall, Pacheco said she did not believe that Trump hated immigrants.

"This is a man who is not coming to his own decisions on these issues," she said. "He's not educated about them."

The decisions Trump makes, she said, appeared to be governed by "whatever's sexy [and] whoever's in his ear telling him what he needs to say and do."

Pacheco said she believed that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and now Senior Adviser to the President Stephen Miller, have been driving forces behind the Trump administration's immigration crackdown.

"He is bringing in a whole bunch of super anti-immigrant people from different organizations," Pacheco said. "And he's just not intelligent enough to stand his own ground and be strategic on this."

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Donald Trump visits Trump International Golf Links on June 25, 2016, in Aberdeen, Scotland. Trump reportedly suggested to immigration advocates in a 2013 meeting that he was aware undocumented immigrants were working at his golf courses. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
Trump 'Boasted' Years Ago That Immigrants Kept His Golf Courses 'Beautiful' and 'Green,' Advocate Says | U.S.