A Baltimore restaurant is suddenly and severely understaffed following a visit from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. The BoatHouse Canton, located on the city’s waterfront, lost dozens of its kitchen staff last week after ICE paid the restaurant a visit to verify all of its employees’ immigration statuses, the Washington Post reports.
In an open letter to customers posted to Facebook over the weekend, owner Gene Singleton explains that after an immigration official came to the restaurant to verify immigration documentation, more than 30 of his employees left their positions, with many “[going] home to pack and leave” for fear of potentially being separated from their families.
In the letter, Singleton accuses the Trump Administration of “targeting the Hispanic community” and says he’s established a fund to support the affected employees. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Singleton’s statements have set off a flurry of controversy on the restaurant’s Facebook page: Many customers are praising Singleton for supporting his employees, while others have accused him of relying on undocumented workers.
It’s no secret that the restaurant industry relies on immigrant labor — some of it undocumented — and multiple restaurants have been targeted with ICE raids in recent months. But Singleton does say that the restaurant was found to be “in compliance,” and it’s not just undocumented immigrants that have cause for concern as of late. Since the Trump Administration took office, even legal immigrants have found themselves caught up in a flood of anti-immigrant sentiment and uneven enforcement of policies like the short-lived travel ban, which resulted in several incidences of legal U.S. residents being detained at airports.
Read the BoatHouse’s letter to its customers in its entirety, below:
June 24, 2017
A NEW DAY AT THE BOATHOUSE
To All Our Loyal, New and Soon to Be Guests:
Yesterday was the saddest day for the BoatHouse family in its 3+ years. We had to say goodbye to over 30 of our teammates who operate our kitchen and support our service team, frequently known as “Back of House,” more appropriately known at the BoatHouse as “Heart of House.”
Last Thursday, the Immigration Division of Homeland Security delivered a request requiring all employment files be turned over in order to review I-9, immigration documentation.
Based on our Government’s current practice of targeting the Hispanic Community, properly documented and potentially less than properly documented are all fearful of being separated from their families, many with small children. Many went home to pack up and leave. This was a sad, emotional, tragic event. It has been confirmed that The BoatHouse’s policies and records are in compliance.
The other 90+ of our employees and managers rallied and have pulled through like champions and the team and family that they are.
The launch of our new Summer Menu is being postponed. We have created an interim menu featuring most all of our leading and popular items.
Today I am proud to announce that the BoatHouse has created the “HEART OF HOUSE FUND” to assist our displaced families with their transition. A portion of all revenues will be contributed to this fund.
Everyone is invited to come and enjoy the great experiences that the BoatHouse has become known for and support our Heart of House Fund. As a group, these people are some of the best I have ever come to know.
Yesterday was a day of transition for the BoatHouse, and there were some bumps along the way. For anyone that received less than a great experience, we truly apologize and invite you back. Bring your receipt from Friday, June 23rd and receive 50% off your next meal.
Anyone desiring to contribute to the Heart of House Fund may do so by adding a line on your check under your gratuity, or by cash or check to one of our managers. Your contribution will be truly appreciated.
Every one of us at the BoatHouse very much appreciates your support.
• An ICE Agent Visited a Restaurant. About 30 Employees Quit the Next Day [WaPo]
• How a Day Without Immigrants Affects Restaurants [E]
• Even Being a Legal Immigrant Is Complicated in the Restaurant Industry [E]