A targeted operation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has led one Austin-owned restaurant to lose staff and curtail its hours.
Asti owner Emmett Fox said two of his longtime employees came to him Friday afternoon and told him they would not be returning to work as they were afraid of the ongoing sting known as Operation Cross Check.
The two women, who previously worked for Fox and his wife, Lisa, at their restaurants Fino and Cantine, have the responsibility of running the kitchen at lunch, leading the Foxes to temporarily shutter for lunch this week. Asti is still open for dinner.
“The day Trump was elected, you could see how scared they were,” Fox said.
Fox, who has worked in the Austin restaurant industry since the 1992, said the women showed him proper documentation when hired and that both had federal income tax and social security taxes withheld from their regular paychecks.
Though Operation Cross Check is said to be targeting unauthorized immigrants with criminal records, Fox doesn’t think that quells the fear of the larger immigrant community.
“They can do whatever they want, and that’s what they’re scared of,” Fox said, adding that the ICE-based fears could make hiring even more difficult in an Austin restaurant environment where finding good help is already difficult.
“We need to have things written about this,” Fox said. “It’s not American, and it’s certainly not Texan. Before this country was Texas, it was Mexico.”
Fox says that the restaurant industry won’t be the only one affected by the fear sweeping through Austin’s immigrant community and that he thinks some people don’t realize the importance of the immigrant workforce throughout Texas.
“I wish all of the Mexicans, legal or illegal, would stop working for a week and it would show everyone what a huge role they play,” Fox said.
To that end, a flier has been circulating around Austin and on social media (see below) calling on all people, including undocumented workers, residents and citizens, to boycott work, restaurants, school and economic participation generally on Thursday.
Asked what would happen to the Austin restaurant landscape if all immigrants who lacked proper documentation were forced to leave the country, Fox said, “There’d be a lot more restaurants closing.”
Asti intends to reopen for lunch once Fox can find replacements for the two women who left Friday.
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