Restaurant owners across the country are hoping the way to the nation’s conscience is through its stomach as they prepare to close their businesses in solidarity with immigrants on Thursday.
The restaurateurs are doing their part to support the grassroots movement dubbed “A Day Without Immigrants,” which asks immigrants not to go to work, open their businesses or buy any products for a full day on Feb. 16. The goal is to impress on President Donald Trump the importance of immigration.
“I’m happy about it,” said Benjamin Miller, co-owner of El Compadre and South Philly Barbacoa restaurants in Philadelphia. “[I’m] glad to see that chefs are stepping up and taking agency and using their power to advocate for people who are more vulnerable. The most we as chefs risk are fines, but these people risk losing their families. They have a lot more to lose.”
Miller’s wife and business partner, Cristina Martinez, is especially invested in the cause because she is an undocumented immigrant currently unable to apply for a green card, despite being married to a U.S. citizen. The couple will close El Compadre on Thursday. (Their other restaurant opens only on weekends.)
It’s no surprise that restaurateurs are taking a stand against the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown, which has led to an uptick in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities. An estimated 1.2 million undocumented immigrants work in food preparation and serving jobs in the United States, according to 2012 Pew Research Center data.
Some high-profile names in the restaurant business have signed on to the effort, including Spanish-born chef José Andrés, who was sued by Trump after he pulled out of plans to open a restaurant in the new Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. Andrés announced on Twitter that he will be closing all five of his D.C. area restaurants on Thursday in solidarity.