More than 30 employees at the BoatHouse Canton, a restaurant in southeast Baltimore, skipped work over the weekend after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began reviewing the restaurant’s immigration records, The Baltimore Sun reports.
On Thursday, ICE requested to review the 1-9 forms on file. But by Friday, many of the workers were expressing that they were “very, very fearful” of returning to work.
The co-owner of The BoatHouse, Gene Singleton, spoke with the Baltimore Sun and said that they encouraged workers to stay, but did not force it because they understood the uncomfortability with the situation.
“They were fearful of just not knowing what was going to happen and being separated from their families,” he said. “They said they were going to have to go home and take care of their families.”
But Singleton claimed that the restaurant has the proper paperwork for its employees and that the own review, found no errors in the documents used to determine legal status. But he expressed that they “don’t know whether [the workers] were all legal or partially legal or not legal.”
In a statement posted on the restaurant’s Instagram page, Singleton said, “Based on our government’s current practices 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.”
Elizabeth Keyes, the director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic in Baltimore, made similar remarks. She spoke to the Baltimore Sun and expressed that “If it was 2016, it would probably be folks who didn’t have immigration paperwork.”
“But in 2017, just the rumor of ICE coming somewhere would be enough to keep people from work.”
The restaurant managed to keep up with the regular flow of customers this past weekend, including hosting a 400-person event on Sunday. And for those who came to the restaurant on Friday, they were given 50 percent off discounts if able to present the receipt from their visit.
Nonetheless, Singleton describes his former-employees as “really good people.”