The owner of a Michigan restaurant said U.S. immigration agents who were conducting enforcement at the business ate breakfast — and complimented the chef — before arresting three workers, according to media reports on Thursday.
The Ann Arbor News and WJBK-TV reported the men arrested Wednesday at Sava’s Restaurant remain in custody. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said agents were doing “a targeted enforcement action” at the Ann Arbor restaurant.
One worker, Jose Carlos Rivera-Ochoa, was briefly detained in the back of the restaurant and three others were arrested after attempting to run away, WXYZ-TV Detroit reported. Rivera-Ochoa and one other worker were eventually released but two others remained in custody, ICE told the Ann Arbor News.
Lelcaj defended the restaurant’s hiring practices, saying that it regularly vets workers’ documentation to legally work in the U.S. Rivera-Ochoa’s wife, Nicki Sanchez, described the ordeal to a reporter.
Lelcaj told the newspaper several agents came to the restaurant near the University of Michigan, and two ate breakfast at the restaurant bar. One ate waffles and bacon and the other eggs and toast. Lelcaj said they praised the food before entering the kitchen area.
ICE spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow said in a statement the agency uses various techniques during enforcement but couldn’t comment on whether agents ate at the restaurant.
Lelcaj said her company vets employees to determine their eligibility and that she had believed they were in the country legally. She said she lived illegally in the U.S. in the 1980s, but became a citizen and now owns three restaurants.
Arrests of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. have gone up almost 38 percent within the first several months since President Donald Trump signed an executive order to step up immigration enforcement, the Los Angeles Times reported.
A big part of the national debate centers on the methods used by ICE agents to detain and arrest people, actions that immigration advocates and even a California federal court judge have criticized.