"It scares the whole community."
Photo via Flickr user Ralph Daily
It's been a busy few months for the folks at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as President Trump's rash of executive orders has put the service industry on the front lines of his war on illegal immigration.
But all of those restaurant raids can be exhausting for ICE officials, and what better way to re-fuel with food than by having it prepared by someone who you're about to detain and arrest?
We're being facetious, of course, but this bizarre and disconcerting scenario appears to have unfolded at Sava's Restaurant, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. According to MLive, ICE officials showed up at Sava's at 11:30 AM on Wednesday morning and "had breakfast" before entering the kitchen in search of a member of the kitchen staff.
"They came in looking for one person, who was not on duty," owner Sava Lelcaj told MLive. That's when Lelcaj says the ICE agents turned their attention to three other men working in the kitchen, whom they ended up arresting.
MUNCHIES reached out to ICE for details surrounding the investigation and they issued the following statement:
While conducting a targeted enforcement action at Sava's restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers encountered and arrested three individuals on immigration violations. Sergio Cardenas Rubio and Jesus Ortiz Hernandez unlawfully entered the United States without inspection at an unknown date and location. Mohamed Souman lawfully entered the country, but did not depart in accordance with the terms of his status. Ortiz Hernandez has been released through the agency's Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program and is required to check-in with ERO officers while in the immigration hearing process. Cardenas Rubio and Souman are currently in ICE custody.
It's worth noting that Leljac was not physically present at the restaurant when her employees were taken into custody. When we asked the agency if officers actually ate breakfast before making the arrests, as Lelcaj claims, ICE Public Affairs Office Rachael Yong Yow would not divulge details of the Sava's investigation.
"Law enforcement may use a variety of techniques while conducting an enforcement action," Yong Yow told MUNCHIES. "I am not at liberty to discuss any techniques that may or may not have been used." In other words, eating breakfast could be a law enforcement "technique," which may or may not have been used by ICE agents here.
State secrets aside, Leljac said that the current state of affairs is creating an environment of fear for restaurant workers.
"It's really sad," she said. "It scares the whole community. Today's a great indication [that] even if you have your documentation, and you're at the wrong place at the wrong time, you can still be at risk."
With an estimated 20 percent of all cooks and 30 percent of all dishwashers in US restaurants being undocumented, those fears are not only founded, but spreading as these arrests continue to take place.