Restaurants

As Trump doubles down in immigration policy, 'Sanctuary Restaurant' movement grows nationwide

Chief correspondent Jonathan Hunt reports from Los Angeles

 

As President Donald Trump works to limit immigration and build a Mexican border wall to keep foreigners from entering the U.S. illegally, more than 150 restaurants in America are taking a stand.

In cities throughout the country, including New York, Minneapolis, Detroit, Boston, Oakland, Chicago and Ann Arbor, Mich., restaurants are declaring themselves to be part of a grassroots “Sanctuary Restaurants Movement.”

Sanctuary restaurants agree to anti-discrimination policies, put up signs on windows that pronounce their sanctuary status and receive know-your-rights training, such as webinars on how to ask federal immigration agents for proper paperwork if there's an attempted raid. Some will also offer a text line for customers or employees to report any incidents of harassment.

The restaurants generally advocate a “zero tolerance policy for sexism, racism, and xenophobia” and believe “there is a place at the table for all.”

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When reached via email, Andrew Tarlow, owner of Diner restaurant in Brooklyn, send the following statement to Fox News:

“As a restaurant group,” Tarlow wrote, “we’re working together to increase our cultural competency and strengthen our self-awareness and bonds, deepening our capacity to serve our guests by understanding how we all experience the world, sometimes in similar and sometimes in very different ways, and working to make the world more hospitable to all."

On Wednesday, Trump signed executive orders aimed at jumpstarting construction of a wall on the southern U.S.-Mexican border and punishing cities that declare themselves sanctuaries for immigrants. Organizers of the movement say the restaurant industry, given its heavy reliance on immigrant labor, is more vulnerable than others.

“Every day more restaurants and diners are signing up with a clear commitment to be together and stand up to the policies we’re now seeing coming from the administration, said Matt Nelson, executive director of Presente.org, a partner with the Sanctuary Restaurant Movement.

Despite growing support, not everyone is on board with the movement. 

The National Restaurant Association, which represents roughly 500,000 businesses, is pushing for a complete immigration overhaul, including an updated verification system that confirms employees' eligibility to work in the country legally. Association Senior Vice President Steve Danon told the Associated Press that the organization "is looking forward to working with the Trump administration" on ways to make verification "easier and more cost-efficient.

Approximately 12 million people work in the U.S. restaurant industry, according to Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), a partner organization that helped found the Sanctuary Restaurant Movement. Immigrants comprise up to 70 percent of the restaurant workers in big cities like New York and Chicago, and an estimated 1.3 million restaurant workers in the country are here illegally.

Amid numerous reports of restaurateurs routinely underpaying undocumented workers, some question if owners or employers who join the Sanctuary Restaurants Movement are adhering to fair payment practices, and agree to pay undocumented workers the same as legal workers.

“First off, all owners are asked to become part of Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment (RAISE),” Nelson says.

RAISE is an advocacy organization committed to improving wages and labor practices in the industry, and one of the first partners of the movement.

“I can’t speak for all employers, but employers [in the SRM] would pay by position and by experience. Everyone would be paid according to scale. Employers aren’t supposed to legally discriminate based on legal status,” Nelson adds.

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Penny Baldado, owner of Café Gabriela in Oakland, California told Fox News that as an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines, the first work she had when she came to the U.S. was in the restaurant industry.

"I experienced the injustices as a queer and undocumented Filipina. How I run my business is informed by my experiences. It’s important for me and my co-workers and community to feel safe against racism, sexism, and xenophobia,” she said, explaining her decision to add her cafe to the movement about two weeks ago.

“Even without a President Trump, I’ve created a safe space in the café because I’ve lived through these systems of oppression.”

For Santuary restaurateurs, it's not just about publicly taking a stand against Trump's proposed policies, it's about putting those ideas into action by allowing members to connect, provide legal resources to concerned owners and help employees in the event of a raid or unlawful request of information of workers.

“Every place this administration tries to intervene, and everywhere policies which are intended to strike fear and hate in people and create a culture of chaos, Sanctuary Movement will fight the cultural battles. Our resistance is literally baked into our food,” Nelson said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at rebekah.sager@foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.