A funny thing happened at the BoatHouse Canton restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland last week. It seems that on June 22 they received a letter notifying them that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was requesting copies of the I-9 forms for their employees. Those are the forms which show that an employer has done their due diligence and ensured that applicants are in the country legally and are eligible for the jobs they seek. The owners passed that word on to the staff and the following day, in what is clearly an unfathomable mystery, nearly three dozen of their workers failed to show up and said they were afraid to come back. (Baltimore Sun)
“We encouraged people to stay but we understood if they felt uncomfortable,” [owner Gene] Singleton said. “They were fearful of just not knowing what was going to happen and being separated from their families. They said they were going to have to go home and take care of their families.”
ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke said the agency doesn’t “confirm the existence of any ongoing investigation.”
Singleton said his staff reviewed their policies and found no lapses in the paperwork they use to determine legal status.
“We have proper paperwork,” he said. “We don’t know whether they were all legal or partially legal or not legal.”
The interview with the owner is interesting to say the least. He claims that all of his I-9 paperwork is in order (which we can’t verify since ICE doesn’t comment about ongoing investigations) but he goes on to say that he “doesn’t know whether” the employees are “all legal, partially legal or not legal.” But if your I-9s are all filled out properly, wouldn’t you know that they were all legal? Did you use the free E-Verify system? And if the employees actually were all up to date on their paperwork, why would they flee?
Of course, the possibility exists that some of them are here working legally but have relatives or friends living with them who they know are illegal and are afraid that ICE might be paying them a visit at home. That’s just speculation, obviously, but if that were the case then they would still be in violation of the law for knowingly harboring an illegal alien. And if you’re here on a green card or work visa, that could be enough to get you in dutch with the law and possibly deported as well.
Here’s the thing about this story. What’s you’re seeing is another variation of the Trump Effect. Notice that there wasn’t a raid. There wasn’t a single officer showing up at the restaurant. There wasn’t even a phone call. They sent out a form letter and the presumably illegal immigrants hit the trail. The owner himself admitted that if this had happened last year there probably wouldn’t have been much of a reaction (which makes me think that this isn’t the first time he’s had a run-in with ICE) but now all it takes is a rumor and illegal aliens hit the road.
This might be a parallel to the factoid indicating that illegal border crossings began plummeting as soon as Trump was sworn in, long before any additional officers or resources were put in place at the border. All it took was the name and the widespread reports that a new sheriff was in town and he was about to get serious about immigration control and enforcement.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?