'Sanctuary restaurants' join immigration debate in Detroit, Ann Arbor

- Dozens of restaurants are looking to protect their employees in an industry that relies on immigrants and several are calling it a "Sanctuary Restaurant."

Illegal immigration is being discussed around dinner tables across the country tonight and that's just the way the owner of the Russell Street Deli in Eastern Market wants it.

In fact he's posting signs encouraging that sort of talk at his place.

"We thought it was important to make clear what that conversation is," said co-owner Ben Hall. "Rather than differing to unscrupulous owners who will hire anybody under any terms which doesn't help with taxes or workers."

To be clear, he doesn't condone illegals immigrants working at his restaurant, adding that illegal immigration isn't a real problem in Detroit. He does say it's present from restaurant suppliers on down and needs to be discussed.

"How we are going to have the conversation long term about immigration rights, and how undocumented workers fit into it," Hall said.
 
The owner says not a single undocumented person has even applied to work here let alone works here now so why a stance when it comes to illegal immigrants. He says the sanctuary label is based on principals he supports. 

Zingerman's in Ann Arbor also signed up to be a sanctuary restaurant meaning a pledge of zero tolerance of racism, sexism and xenophobia. Ben Hall says that's always been at the heart of what the Russell Street Deli has been about.

"You can come in here and see former Sen. Carl Levin be here with someone who is in hunting gear who is a union guy or a truck driver from the neighborhood," he said.

According to the Restaurant Opportunity Center which founded the sanctuary restaurant movement, dozens of establishments across the country are taking part.

According to the organization, of the 12 million people working in restaurants, 1.3 million are undocumented.
 
The goal of the sanctuary restaurant is not to harbor these illegal workers but employers providing a safe environment for their workers.
 

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