A Michigan restaurant owner said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents sat down and ate breakfast Wednesday before taking three of her employees into custody.
All three workers are in the country legally, Sava Lelcaj told MLive.com. Lelcaj is the owner of Sava’s Restaurant in Ann Arbor.
“They came in looking for one person, who was not on duty,” Lelcaj said.
The ICE agents then went into the restaurant’s kitchen and began questioning workers. Three people were detained and taken to the Detroit ICE office.
Lelcaj said the workers have the proper documentation to be in the United States, but did not have those documents on them when questioned by the agents.
“We do the best we can to hire, to vet and screen and be compliant,” Lelcaj said.
One of those workers, Carlos Rivera-Ochoa, told MLive.com on Thursday that he always carries his permanent resident card in his wallet, specifically for instances like what happened Wednesday.
He still was handcuffed, put in a government vehicle and fingerprinted, said Rivera-Ochoa’s wife, Nicki Sanchez. She translated for her husband, who speaks little English.
Sanchez said her husband told her the ICE agents did not identify themselves in the restaurant.
“They just slapped some handcuffs on him,” Sanchez told MLive.com. “Not only is that offensive, (but) he was embarrassed in front of the whole restaurant. Why didn’t they ask him before they detained him?”
It took about five minutes for the agents to learn that Rivera-Ochoa was in the country legally, and to let him go.
Restaurant employees said that customers eating at the restaurant when the ICE agents began questioning the staff called a local “rapid response team” that assists immigrants in the area. Luis Paez, a member of the team, went to Sava’s to see what was going on.
“I am appalled at the current situation in the United States,” Paez told MLive.com. “I am trying to get information about what really happened and help as much as we can.”
The news outlet reported that Ann Arbor police officials said they were made aware by ICE officials that there would be a targeted enforcement detail at the restaurant Wednesday morning. The department was not asked to participate.
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