We were sitting in a Mexican restaurant outside Huntsville, Alabama over a decade ago when the raid went down.
A pack of charcoal gray Ford Crown Victorias comes tearing into the restaurant parking lot. I look up from my taco plate just as my friend starts laughing and pointing out the window. A half a dozen guys in toques are booking it towards the edge of the woods near the blacktop and the undercover cops are in hot pursuit. A fat, sweating man, necktie askew, comes walking out of the kitchen and apologetically announces that the restaurant is closed.
Hard to run a taqueria when your cooks are on the lam from ICE.
Back in the 90s Alabama saw a huge influx of immigrants from a host of Latin American countries. They came for the hard work in chicken processing plants, rock quarries and the hot lines of commercial kitchens.
They regularly worked for $5 an hour, cash under the table, and lived, a dozen to a house, with other families trying to realize their version of the American dream.
Since then the laws have changed a bit.
Nowadays, the owner of the restaurant gets a letter in the mail from ICE announcing that they’re being subjected to an I-9 audit and will need to be able to provide documentation that their workers are in USA legally.
This is what happened to Sushi Zushi yesterday as the San Antonio-based chain chose to shutter their 8 locations scattered across Texas saying: “Several vital employees have chosen not to report to work.”
Pretty easy to read between those lines.
The owner, Alfonso Tomita, is quite the success story, first earning his MBA from UTSA then rocketing to the top of Encyclopedia Britannica becoming the president of their Japan concern.
Tomita eventually returned to San Antonio where he launched his sushi chain in 2001. He’s thought to employ over five hundred people at the various outlets with revenue in excess of twenty million dollars per annum.
We’ll keep abreast of this story and report back as events warrant.