Three members of the kitchen staff from Sava’s restaurant at 216 S State St. in Ann Arbor were detained this morning by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The raid occurred roughly around 11:30 a.m. The employees were taken to ICE’s Detroit offices and are expected to be released this afternoon.
A representative from Sava’s, Bree Stilwell, tells Eater that several agents came into the restaurant and ate breakfast. When they were finished they “went into the kitchen and attempted to apprehend one of our employees who wasn’t on at the time.”
Stilwell, who was not present at the restaurant at the time of the incident, says that the employee in question was suspected of not having proper documentation. However, when it became clear that the individual wasn’t working the morning shift, ICE allegedly began requesting other employees’ documentation. The three staff members were arrested because they were not carrying the proper documentation at the time.
Although the restaurant was down several employees, Stilwell says that Sava’s was able to maintain service throughout the morning. Owner Sava Lelcaj “rushed down to actually jump on the line.” Stilwell adds that several witnesses were “pretty distressed by the scene.” Meanwhile, a somewhat incorrect report on the raid spread widely across social media through a Facebook post by the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights.
ALERT This morning (5/24) around 11:15 am, 5 Latino kitchen staff members were detained by ICE (Immigration and Customs...Posted by WICIR Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights on Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Stilwell says that Sava’s parent restaurant group Savco Hospitality works “very hard to be compliant with all of our employees.” Each of the employees at the restaurant was fully documented and “all of the information they provided was deemed accurate to the best of our abilities.”
Even so, the specter of ICE raids has many in the Southeast Michigan community talking, she says. “We’ve seen or heard of potential raids elsewhere and what happened today exemplifies that fear,” she says. Eater has reached out to ICE for comment on this morning’s raid.
While large numbers of undocumented immigrants were deported during the Obama administration, an executive order signed by President Trump in January expanded the guidelines by which immigration authorities target individuals for deportation. According to a report by the Department of Homeland Security last week, immigration arrests have increased by 37.6 percent over the same period in 2016.
Deportation and immigration raids could have a significant impact on the restaurant industry and the lives of workers. A 2008 Pew report found that undocumented workers make up roughly 10 percent of the hospitality industry and 13 percent of the agriculture workforce. Concerns over deportation issues has spurred several prominent A Day Without Immigrants protests, where undocumented workers and immigrants abstained from work and voluntarily closed businesses to demonstrate their contributions to the U.S. economy.
For workers who are concerned about immigration status, there are things that can be done to protect ones self. Eater has a guide on rights for undocumented workers in the restaurant industry.
Update, 5/24, 6:33 p.m.: Reached by Eater, ICE released the following statement regarding a raid conducted at Sava’s restaurant in Ann Arbor:
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. All three are currently in ICE custody.
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