The restaurant industry would collapse without the many immigrants it depends on. As Anthony Bourdain has repeatedly stated, Latino immigrants are the “backbone of the industry” because they come to the United States ready to work, even if means starting as night porters or dishwashers – jobs many are unwilling to take. As we inch closer to a Donald Trump presidency, this is an industry that could see drastic changes if the president-elect follows through on his plans to mass deport the undocumented immigrants who reside in the US.
During the more than one year in which he campaigned, Trump promised to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US. After winning the election, Trump amended his statements and said he’d immediately focus on deporting “criminals” and those with “criminal records.” He estimates that will lead to the repatriation of two to three million people. As a result, cities and educational institutions across the US have declared themselves allies of the undocumented community and have vowed to do what they can to protect them. Now, restaurants are joining this movement and creating “sanctuary restaurants.”
Though restaurants cannot legally protect immigrants from deportation, they can provide a safe space. As the Sanctuary Restaurants website states, they have “a zero tolerance policy for sexism, racism, and xenophobia, and believe that there is a place at the table for all.” For most of his campaign, Trump repeatedly said loathsome comments about women, Latinos, Muslims, and anyone else who doesn’t fit into his narrow vision of America. His rhetoric gave his followers motivation to act on their worst tendencies. More than 400 racist attacks took place across the country in the week that followed the elections.
Some of those incidents happened at restaurants. Those eateries that have become sanctuaries vow to stand up to hatred by not allowing harassment of any kind based on immigration status, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or religion. They’ll also place a sign reading “Sanctuary Restaurants: a place at the table for everyone” in their establishment. And through a peer network, they’ll share strategies and tips to protect undocumented workers.
Sanctuary Restaurants is a joint venture between Restaurants Opportunities Center (ROC) United and Presente.org. “While the restaurant industry suffers from a labor shortage, anti-immigrant, and sexist rhetoric is now commonplace,” ROC United co-founder Saru Jayaraman, according to Chicagoist. “Sanctuary Restaurants seeks to create the world we want – establishments free from hate and discrimination, where everyone has a seat at the table.”
Currently, 24 restaurants – like South Philly Barbacoa (which has an undocumented head chef) in Philadelphia to L’Oca d’Oro in Austin – have signed up for the program. Check out the full list of eateries that have proclaimed that there’s no place for hate in their establishments here.