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  • A rally fighting xenophobia

    A rally fighting xenophobia | Photo: AFP

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After the sanctuary city and sanctuary campus movements, there’s a new trend dedicated to protecting undocumented immigrants.

First came the renewed commitment towards sanctuary cities. Then college and university campuses jumped on board to declare themselves as sanctuary campuses. Now restaurants across the United States, too, are joining the pledge to protect undocumented immigrants from the incoming anti-immigrant policies of Donald Trump.

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Launched early this month by a coalition between the advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and Presente.org — whose mission is to “advance Latinx power” — the aim of the movement is to offer “support and resources to restaurant workers, employers and consumers impacted by hostile policies and actions, including immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQI people and others.”

In a press release issued Jan. 4, the movement lists the following as characteristics of sanctuary restaurants. They are places that: “do not allow any harassment of any individual based on immigrant/refugee status, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation to occur in their restaurant; place a prominent ‘Sanctuary Restaurant: A Place At the Table for Everyone’ sign in the establishment; and participate in a peer network to exchange ideas and strategies for protecting targeted workers.”

“In full partnership with Presente.org, we are launching Sanctuary Restaurants because restaurant workers are on the front lines of discrimination and hate in America," ROC United Co-founder and Co-director Saru Jayaraman said in the statement. "While the restaurant industry suffers from a labor shortage, anti-immigrant and sexist rhetoric is now commonplace. Sanctuary Restaurants seeks to create the world we want — establishments free from hate and discrimination, where everyone has a seat at the table.”

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“The stakes have never been higher and wherever others normalize white supremacy and hate, we will organize and resist,” explained Matt Nelson, the executive director of Presente.org. “The Sanctuary Restaurant Movement will provide protections for targeted workers and elevate and celebrate restaurants that commit to resist the draconian, anti-immigration efforts of the incoming administration.

"Presente.org is excited to partner with ROC United on this ambitious plan to organize and empower Latinxs to take a stand against xenophobia and hate across the country,” Nelson added.

The movement is being heralded as a vital one that could positively impact the lives of many, given that the leisure and hospitality industry — of which restaurants are a part — is one of the largest employers of undocumented workers in the country, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

Participating restaurants are located in cities from New York to Chicago to Texas.

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