Burrito shop Illegal Pete's once again under fire from Latino groups for controversial name

As a controversial Mexican restaurant chain is in the midst of opening a new location in Arizona, it is once again under fire for its name -- Illegal Pete's.

Students at the University of Arizona's Hispanic student organization M.E.Ch.A. have sent a letter to the owner of Illegal Pete's, asking the Colorado businessman to change to the name of his restaurant because they say it offends Hispanics.

"We are not like other communities where your business exists, and we are more than willing to show you that," the group wrote, according to the Arizona Daily Star. "We are here to tell you that no longer will you be able to claim blissful ignorance and profit from racism."

Illegal Pete's owner, Pete Turner, has been called on before by Latino rights groups to change the name, but has adamantly defended his restaurant's name. Turner argues that name was meant to be "mysterious" and playful, and is also an homage to his father, whose name was also Pete.

Turner added that when he opened the first restaurant in his chain in 1995, the word "illegal" was not deemed offensive and that he still does not consider it so.

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"Words change in meaning," Turner said. "That word in particular is not a bad word. And who knows if it changes. Hopefully there will be some (immigration) reform in the next five years and things will change back."

The restaurant, which already has seven locations in Colorado and is modeled after the sort of Mexican food that originated in San Francisco's Mission District, has been under fire before for its name.

Residents of Fort Collins, Colorado last year raised concerns about the eatery's name.

"Since I know the context, and I have been labeled with (the word illegal), it makes a huge difference to me," said Fort Collins resident Lucy Gonzalez.

During a meeting between Turner and residents last fall, people likened the name to a racial slur directed at African-American, and said it was like calling a restaurant "Smoking Lynching BBQ" or hanging a Confederate flag in the restaurant's window.

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