Baltimore Restaurant Loses 30 Employees After ICE Visit
“Many went home to pack up and leave. This was a sad, emotional, tragic event.”
Donald Trump claims that by cracking down on immigration, “we’re liberating towns” from criminals.
But since Trump’s election, the highest increase in immigrant arrests has been among law-abiding immigrants.
Last Friday, a Baltimore restaurant felt the effects of this crackdown when more than 30 kitchen staff members left their positions after an unexpected visit from an Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent.
According to an open letter by Gene Singleton, the owner of The BoatHouse Canton restaurant, nearly all of his kitchen staff left after ICE officials ordered all employment files, I-9 and immigration documents be turned over for review.
In this same letter, Singleton called the loss of his kitchen team, whom he nicknamed “The Heart of the House,” a “sad, emotional, tragic event.”
The owner also accused the American government of “targeting the Hispanic Community,” causing documented and undocumented immigrants alike to feel “fearful of being separated from their families.”
Baltimore is one of many sanctuary cities that has faced increased immigration enforcement since the Trump administration came to power.
In January, the President of the United States signed an executive order to halt federal grants to sanctuary cities that, while lacking a concrete definition, often “limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement actions.”
CNN reports that that ICE officials are conducting more raids in these cities. In Trump’s first 100 days, ICE arrested over 41,300 undocumented immigrants, marking a 30% increase from the same time period last year. While the amount of criminal arrests ICE made in this time frame increased by 20% compared to the beginning of 2016, the amount non-criminal immigrant arrests has increased by over 150%.
The restaurant industry is an easy target for ICE, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics published a study in May that found that undocumented immigrants make up 1.4 million of the 12.7 million employees in the restaurant workforce.
Ben Johnson, the Director of the American Immigration Law Foundation told NPR that the number of visas available for unskilled workers hoping to immigrate to America is “incredibly low.”
“A lot of the undocumented workers that are in the United States have submitted an application for one of those 5,000 green cards… they decided that it didn't make any sense for them to wait ten years in order to get a job as a busboy, and they came into the United States and began working as a busboy even though their application is pending,” Johnson said.
In response to the ICE incident at The BoatHouse Canton restaurant, the owner created the “Heart of the House Fund” to assist the restaurant’s displaced employees and their families throughout the uncertainty of their transition.