BALTIMORE (WJZ)– After more than 30 workers at Baltimore’s Boathouse Restaurant quit their jobs hours after immigration officials demanded their employment eligibility verification; managers turned over forms, known as I-9’s, to the federal government.
Worker advocates believe similar scenes are playing out at restaurants across the area. One union leader said the restaurants won’t be able to fill open positions.
“A lot of businesses won’t report it because they’re scared they’re going to be targeted. A lot of workers won’t come out because they’re afraid they’re going to be detained,” said Jaime Contreras of the Service Employees International Union. “People just move from one job to the next. People are switching jobs. The boathouse incident in Baltimore is just the one that was reported. This is happening all around the country.”
In Chicago, a hospitality workers union put out a song telling members what to do if they’re confronted. In Michigan, immigration agents recently ate breakfast at a restaurant and ended up arresting three workers there.
“As a business owner this is supposed to be a sanctuary for our employees and it’s our responsibility to keep them safe and protected,” said raided restaurant owner Sava Lelcaj-Farah.
WJZ has gotten a lot of feedback on social media. People said the workers need to play by the rules and follow the law, and they have no problem with the federal government enforcing that.
“Throwing them the hell out of our country,” said President Donald Trump in February at a CPAC speech.
The legal manager for Maryland’s immigrant advocacy group CASA said he’s seen “escalation” in enforcement.
“Where they’re been out on the street racially profiling people and now they’re moving into the workplace trying to scare people away,” said CASA senior manager of legal services Nick Katz. “Immigrants who work in the back of the house–cleaning dishes, preparing food, doing everything you need for a restaurant to be successful–without them, they can’t move forward.”
The Boathouse owner maintains he was in compliance with the law. The boathouse owner maintains he was in compliance with the law.