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Sanctuary restaurants create havens for undocumented workers

Since President Trump took office a year and a half ago, the administration has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration—a promise which has caused a great deal of anxiety for undocumented workers across the country. There are growing stories of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers raiding workplaces, in search of undocumented farm laborers, kitchen staff and construction workers—among others.

While the administration narrowly views undocumented workers as a drain on society, such laborers actually contribute immensely to the U.S. economy. In addition to filling 7.9 million—largely undesirable—positions in the workforce, they also pay more than $12 billion in taxes each year.

In response to the federal crackdown on undocumented workers, other organizations have emerged to support the rights of such workers. One such organization aims to protect undocumented workers in the restaurant industry.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) has started a movement, which is intended to push back against ICE pressure. ROC United partners with restaurants around the country who commit to being so-called “sanctuary restaurants.” As such, they vow to provide a safe space for workers—free of fear, discrimination or intimidation. They agree to pay equitable wages, offer benefits and provide opportunities for professional growth to all of their workers. In addition, they educate their workers about their rights in the event that they’re confronted by immigration officials.

The work of ROC United is an important reminder of the ways in which we as a society can help to support undocumented workers. The narrative in much of today’s media gives the false impression that such workers have no rights. This is a misconception. If you’re fearful of your future as an undocumented worker in the United States, consulting with an experienced immigration attorney is a valuable first step in protecting yourself.

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