More than 30 employees are out of a job at The Boathouse Canton restaurant after a request for immigration paperwork.
The restaurant’s owner released a statement over the weekend saying the Immigration Division of Homeland Security requested that all employment files be turned over last Thursday to review I-9 immigration documentation.
“Based on our Government’s current practices of targeting the Hispanic Community, properly documented and potentially less than properly documented are all fearful of being separated from their families, many with small children,” the owner said in a letter shared on Facebook. “Many went home to pack up and leave. This was a sad, emotional, tragic event. It has been confirmed that The BoatHouse’s policies and records are in compliance.”
"It speaks to the fear that a lot of people are undergoing right now," said George Escobar, Senior Director of Services at CASA de Maryland. "And we're talking about people who aren't necessarily undocumented, there are some people that still live in mixed status families."
ABC 2 News reached out to the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Over the last year, we're told the agency carried out 1,279 I-9 form inspections like the one at The BoatHouse to make sure businesses are following the law.
Immigration advocacy groups like CASA say there's been a spike in deportation orders in the region, explaining a simple inquiry from the government about work status is enough to make people panic and worry about themselves or loved ones.
"It just underlines their efforts to try and criminalize, to try to target hard working immigrants in this community that are just here to find a better life for themselves and their family," Escobar said.
Back at The BoatHouse, job interviews were underway Monday, and management says the restaurant will be back open for regular hours Tuesday.
Online, the letter said the launch of its new summer menu will be postponed as a result. Remaining workers have also created the “Heart of the House Fund,” which will donate a portion of all revenues to help the restaurant’s displaced families.
The owner went on to apologize to customers. Anyone who dined at the location on Friday, June 23 can bring in their receipt for 50 percent off their next meal.