Portland chefs say immigrants crucial to industry, plan to donate to ACLU

Restaurants plan to donate profits to ACLU

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland chef and owner of Pok Pok restaurants, Andy Ricker, has issued a challenge to other restaurants: Donate a portion of your profits this coming weekend to the Oregon American Civil Liberties Union.

So far, more than 30 Portland restaurants have joined in to support the legal fight of immigrants, saying they are crucial to the industry.

Ricker says the ACLU is fighting for non-criminal immigrants, so he wants to show support.

"There's a bit of an atmosphere of intolerance and potentially worse than that right now. We just wanted to do something. These are folks I've worked with my whole life in the industry and will continue to do so forever," Ricker said.

It started with a simple email Friday to all the chefs in Portland Ricker could think of. Then a tweet Monday morning saying, "This weekend, 2/18-2/19, Portland restaurants will donate part of proceeds to the ACLU to help fight for our immigrant brothers and sisters."

Other chefs and restaurants in places like Austin and Houston, Texas have said they are planning a similar movement for March.

"The restaurant industry is built with immigrant labor, with immigrant creativity, we wouldn't have a restaurant industry without  immigrants," Ricker said.

According to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11 percent of restaurant employees are immigrants. But it's difficult to find out how many of those are undocumented. A 2008 Pew study found 20 percent of cooks in American restaurants were undocumented. For dishwashers, it was a third of them.

"We jumped on board," said Leather Storrs, co-owner of Noble Rot Restaurant on East Burnside Street in Portland. He got Ricker's email Friday and will also be giving 10 percent of profits to the ACLU next Sunday and Monday.

Storrs and Ricker both wanted to make it known they have a strict policy of only hiring legal employees. They say this is an issue of morality and respect for their colleagues.

"There are a great deal of Latin Americans in this industry and there are a couple guys who I couldn't do without. It's complicated, I believe that the child who was brought here at one year old without a green card but was raised for 17 years as an American, is homeless if he's kicked out of here."

Many customers support it, like Toby Boyd of Portland. "It makes good sense for them, but I think it's an important cause for all of us so I'm happy to support that."

Not every diner is though. Aaron Bieman echoed other people's concerns on Facebook, commenting "Are they supporting illegal immigrants or legal immigrants? Illegal immigrants are breaking the law by being in the country and working here, employers are breaking the law by employing them. Legal immigrants have gone through a long process to become citizens of this country, and should be applauded for their commitment to our country."

Steve Crawford agreed on Facebook, writing, "I personally won't eat, shop or purchase items from any entity that openly commits, supports or encourages crime or criminals of any type. If they are willing to overlook crime and criminals in this matter...are they willing to do the same in others?"

Storrs responded to that sentiment saying, "I don't know that there is necessarily a distinction. I think it's a chance to give a voice to the idea that we don't want to be part of a country that is exclusionary, that is making decisions based on where you were born."

The ACLU of Oregon says in November and December it received $200,000 in donations, which is 70 percent more than that same time the year before. Since the election, their office says local membership has tripled.

Some of the restaurants participating in donating profits to the ACLU over the weekend:

Accanto, all Pok Pok locations, Podnah's Pit BarbecueThe Woodsman TavernToro BravoEaT: An Oyster BarPambicheMultnomah Whiskey LibraryThe Country Cat Dinnerhouse & Bar¿Por Qué No? TaqueriaRoman Candle Baking Co.ChefStable GroupNoble RotLittle Bird BistroMediterranean Exploration CompanyLePigeonOld Salt MarketplaceGrain & Gristle

 

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