Society
Society

Restaurant Refuses Kitchen Access To ICE Agents

| by Robert Fowler

When Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrived at a Michigan restaurant and asked to meet with an employee, the establishment's co-owner turned them away.

On Aug. 9, two ICE agents entered Cafe Zola in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The immigration agents inquired about an unnamed individual and asked to search the restaurant kitchen. Cafe Zola co-owner Hediye Batu declined their request and asked them to leave, MLive reports.

Alan Zakalik, Batu's husband, confirmed the encounter.

"I was not around when they came in but they did speak to my wife, and she refused them entry," Zakalik said. "They wanted to go through the kitchen."

Zakalik added that the ICE agents were carrying guns and that several of his customers "didn't like the intimidation factor when people come in with guns."

Batu and Zakalik, who have owned Cafe Zola for 21 years, said this marked the first time that immigration agents came into their establishment.

ICE Michigan spokesperson Khaalid Walls confirmed the incident and asserted that the agents were conducting a routine investigation.

"Today's enforcement operations are a part of routine, daily targeted operations conducted by ICE in this region and around the country every day, targeting criminal aliens and other immigration violators," Walls said in a statement. "No arrests were made."

On May 24, ICE agents arrested three immigrants at a different restaurant in Ann Arbor. The immigration agents had breakfast at Sava's Restaurant before inquiring about an undisclosed employee, who was not working at the establishment that day. The ICE agents then questioned kitchen staff and arrested three employees.

Sava Lelcaj, the restaurant's owner, asserted that her three detained employees actually possessed documents to work in the U.S. but were arrested because they did not have them on hand.

"It's really sad," Lelcaj said. "It scares the whole community."

President Donald Trump has made immigration enforcement a top priority for his administration. On Jan. 25, the president signed an executive order that made virtually every immigrant in the country illegally a priority for ICE apprehension and deportation.

While Trump won Michigan in the November 2016 election, Ann Arbor voters overwhelmingly sided with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. On July 20, Democratic Mayor Christopher Taylor blasted the Trump administration's immigration enforcement in his community, The Intercept reports.

Taylor urged his constituents to "tell the administration that its fearful vision of immigrants and refugees is an affront to our history and our values, and, finally, that it is up to us to do everything we can to tell the world that Trump is not America."

Can a community choose to resist ICE agents?
Yes - 0%
Yes - 0%