On February 22, 2017, exactly 55 unauthorized workers went missing from Mississippi restaurants after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) raided the businesses. Two days later, the Jackson Mississippi Clarion-Ledger reported “their locations have not been disclosed and their futures are uncertain,” and since, 11 of the 55 have been charged. Just a week before the Mississippi raids, ICE also raided Pennsylvania’s Aroma Buffet & Grill and took four employees into custody, causing the restaurant to close for two weeks due to a lack of staffing. Immigrants working from farm to table are now wondering whether their time in the United States could be coming to an end.
“There is great fear among farmworker communities where as much as 70 percent of farmworkers are undocumented,” says Bruce Goldstein, president of advocacy group Farmworker Justice. “Children are coming home from school in tears asking if their families are going to be broken up.” Deportation is devastating to families, he adds, especially when so many have put down roots and lived in the U.S. for decades. “It sends a chill through the entire community.”
In restaurants, even workers with legal papers are nervous. “Ever since the rumors started that raids are happening again, everyone’s been very cautious, careful, and scared of what could happen,” says Felipe Donnelly, chef and owner of New York’s Comodo and Colonia Verde. “During these raids there’s a sense of loss of any rights you have — that’s the scary part.” What if there’s a raid and a legal worker doesn’t have his papers on him? “You’re going to assume I’m here illegally and take me down anyways,” Donnelly says. “That’s not something you want to feel on top of you constantly.”
Immigration raids have been making headlines across the country for the past month. But as previous instances of immigration enforcement have shown, removing people from their communities has a much larger effect than simple labor shortages or temporary restaurant closures.
By Tove Danovich for EATER.COM
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