Since President Donald Trump took office in January, Chicago area restaurants like Birrieria Zaragoza, La Chaparrita #1, L’Patron and countless others — restaurants that are daily destinations for a diverse community — have faced concerns because of the new administration’s stance on immigration issues, including the promises of a Mexico border wall and the executive order to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities. Here’s what they are saying:
“Mexican people are scared to come out especially around this area because it’s a Latino community, and they’re scared that ICE could just be around the corner. We started seeing this right when Mr. President Trump was elected. A lot of people have been trying to save up money for anything that would come up. Some have actually left to Mexico already permanently. They say, I don’t want to be kicked out so I’m just going to leave.
“My mom, right now, she’s on vacation in Mexico. I say she’s part-owner here because I borrowed money from her. She had to refinance her home so she could loan me the money to start the business. The news is really scaring the people out there, and she was a little frightened (to travel) because of the whole commotion of not letting (Mexicans returning to the U.S.) come back. But at the same time, she had nothing to hide so she just went for it.
“We actually have a packaging company right here we work with, and we send things to Mexico and from. We have customers that have been taking, little by little, their clothes and their stuff, taking it back to Mexico. And then they leave.”
“My dad passed away a couple of years ago, but my mom is still here. She has friends that are illegal immigrants, and they have kids who are U.S. citizens. If they get deported and their families are separated, what would happen to the kids? My mom just reassures (her friends) that their kids would be OK, that she would take responsibility for them. She raised us, me and my three older brothers, and now for my mom to go under that stress again, you know, it’s like wow.
“When I closed down for A Day Without Immigrants, I explained to my staff why I was doing it. It was out of respect for them, out of respect for my mom and dad, and everybody in the world that’s here illegally or legally, whatever that is. We can go all the way back to Christopher Columbus and the Native Americans if they want to get into detail. We’ll see who the real illegals are (laughs).
“I have 12 employees, two shifts; about 80 percent have an immigrant background. My employees were all very happy that I (closed for the day). I put the sign up in the window, then we stayed an hour talking about it. Fifty years ago, my dad came to Chicago illegally to start a new life, and that’s why I accomplished what I accomplished. My mom is a U.S. citizen. She became a citizen in ’86.
“I posted the sign on Facebook, and I leave the comments up there. I don’t delete anything. One commenter confronted me right here. He actually pointed out I didn’t put the word “illegal” on the sign on my door. He caught me right in the middle of the dining room. We were full of people. But he ate here (laughs).
“In all three of (my) businesses (L’Patron, G & G Auto Repair and L’Flamingo liquor store, all nearby on Fullerton Avenue), we’ve seen business drop a little bit. At the auto repair shop, one of the customers commented, “Why am I going to put so much money into the car if I don’t know what’s going to happen to me in a couple of months?”