It’s insulting enough when people born in the United States use pejorative terms to describe immigrant communities. But it’s even more puzzling when an immigrant – someone who presumably understands the complexities of the US immigration system – uses these terms. Yet, Florian Furxhiu, an Albanian immigrant, named his Philadelphia based-Mexican restaurant Illegal Tacos. Now, people are pushing for others to boycott the restaurant.
As the name suggests, owner Furxhiu is taking a jab at the current political climate. He’s aware that the name’s controversial, but he’s defended the use of it because he’s also an immigrant. “I’m trying to make a positive, funny thing out of what’s going on now in America – sort of defining and making fun of the current political climate at the same time,” he told Eater.
But many do not see humor in the name – a word that opponents of immigration hurl as insults to a community they deem as inferior. Instead, they see a man who is profiting off of Mexican culture while normalizing a hateful word and maligning a group of 11 million people.
He also proudly boasted that the restaurants’ chefs are Mexican. “I want to keep the menu simple and just serve the best tacos,” he said.
However, a few months ago, he posted pictures of himself posing alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. In the Instagram photo, Florian describes ICE – a government agency that has upended the lives of so many immigrants – in venerable terms. “Even the finest law enforcement are loving the illegal stuff,” the caption read.
Although Furxhiu posted the photo in April, it recently went viral after some activists started a petition to boycott the restaurant. Activist group Juntos started the campaign to show that “there’s nothing catchy about racism.” The group denounced the owner’s statements about hiring Mexican chefs.
“Once again our community is valued only for their labor and not their humanity,” the petition reads. “If Furxhiu wants to open an authentic Mexican restaurant, he should do so in solidarity with the folks making his food and from whose culture the recipes come and not name his restaurant after a dehumanizing slur.”
As for Furxhiu, it seems the viral condemnations have not slowed him down, but given the outcry, maybe just don’t go calling your business Illegal Tacos.
Update, September 25, 2018 at 9 a.m. ET. Juntos is holding a rally outside Illegal Tacos. For more info, visit their Facebook event.