How The Restaurant Industry is Impacted by the Immigration Debate

How The Restaurant Industry is Impacted by the Immigration Debate

To say the immigration topic in the United States is complicated, is an understatement.

Most recently, the national conversation around the subject has been a heated one arising from President Donald Trump’s efforts to shut down the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protects and provides benefits to Dreamers, people who were brought to the United States as undocumented children, under the premise that it was unconstitutional.

According to advocacy group New American Economy, out of this segment of the population, which amounts to 700,000 immigrants who are currently protected under the DACA program, almost 19 percent hold an occupation in the restaurant or food service sector, as reported by “CNBC.”

Based on census data from 2011 through 2015, New American Economy estimated that the top three occupations by DACA-eligible workers include cashiers (6.5 percent), waiters and waitresses (4.9 percent), and chefs and cooks (4.6 percent). The statistics from the report indicate that the hospitality industry would be the hardest hit if the program was to be no more.

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Chef José Andrés Rises As the 2018 James Beard Humanitarian Honoree

Chef José Andrés Rises As the 2018 James Beard Humanitarian Honoree

James Beard Award-winning Chef, Restaurateur, and Philanthropist José Andrés has been named the recipient of the 2018 James Beard Humanitarian Award.

You may remember hearing about Andrés recently when the celebrity chef turned activist opted to Tweet a selfie expressing he was allegedly not allowed to enter an event in Washington D.C., at the restaurant owner’s and Ivanka Trump’s request. When the first daughter personally replied back to Andrés clarifying that she had nothing to do with the misunderstanding, the chef took the opportunity to bring up a political issue close to him—immigration.

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Why Restaurants are Proclaiming their Businesses as a “Sanctuary” to Immigrants

Sanctuary Restaurant Signage |  Credit: Paul Sancya/AP Photo

Sanctuary Restaurant Signage | Credit: Paul Sancya/AP Photo

As new immigration policies sweep the nation, one of the sectors most impacted by these changes are restaurants.

The industry is immigrant-heavy, roughly 12 million workers in the industry are immigrants. So in an effort to protect staff, restaurant businesses are seeking “sanctuary” status.

“First inspired by churches, the label is something cities and other public entities have sought to offer local protections to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, whether it's barring police from asking citizens about immigration status or refusing to cooperate with federal agents,” writes “ABC News.”

So far there are 80 restaurants, many of which in major cities like New York, Detroit, Boston, and others, that are pronouncing their establishments as sanctuary status.

This is more of a symbolic movement, since restaurants are subjected to workplace law and regulations.

But this movement continues to gain momentum after President Donald Trump signed executive orders last week to jumpstart the construction of the wall, punish cities that proclaim to be sanctuaries for immigrants, and barr visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Restaurants participating are promoting messages of diversity.

For example, the owner at Detroit's Russell Street Deli has a sign that says "SANCTUARY RESTAURANT, a place at the table for everyone” and is making It clear that if you don’t accept this, you don’t have to eat at his deli.

"I have this one little place where I get to decide how people treat each other," said Ben Hall, owner of Russell Street Deli. "If someone has the need to insult someone ... then they don't get to participate. I've told them, 'There's another diner next door.'"

Many establishments are adopting these policies and making a statement to help their staff feel safe and supported in this uncertain time.

While some restaurants are combating the Trump administration and what they see has discrimination against immigrants, some groups are in support of an immigration overhaul.

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

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