HUDSON — The Warren Street restaurant Mexican Radio Hudson closed Aug. 11, and owners now lay part of the blame on immigration enforcement actions and deportations that impacted their employees.
A statement on the restaurant’s website, mexradio.com, claims that many of the restaurant’s employees, some of whom worked for the company for nearly 20 years, “have been forcibly and violently ejected from this country, tearing out the very soul of our kitchen staff.”
Columbia County Sanctuary Movement Executive Director Bryan MacCormack said Mexican Radio is not the only business to deal with immigration issues.
“There have been at least 12 businesses in Hudson and Columbia County whose employees have been impacted by ICE raids over the past two years,” MacCormack said. “This is the first, to my knowledge, that has closed. We have worked with employees of Mexican Radio in the past who have been detained by immigration.”
MacCormack said his organization, which advocates for and supports undocumented immigrants, has worked with detained employees in Hudson as well as other towns in the county, including Chatham, Valatie and Kinderhook.
Khaalid Walls, Northeast regional communications director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said there have not been any raids at Mexican Radio.
“We’ve had no enforcement action involved with this business,” Walls said.
Walls added that Homeland Security Investigations conducts worksite investigations, and its strategy focuses on “the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly break the law.” Mexican Radio has not been one of the worksites the agency has investigated, Walls said.
While no ICE crackdown may have taken place at the restaurant itself, the eatery’s employees may have been detained outside their workplace.
Mark Young and Lori Selden, the restaurant’s owners, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Until a couple of years ago, Mexican Radio had three restaurants — in Hudson, Schenectady and its original location, New York City.
The first Mexican Radio opened in New York City 23 years ago, starting out as a 600-square-foot eatery on Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan. It moved to a bigger site on Cleveland Place in 2000.
The second Mexican Radio was opened in Hudson, on Warren Street, 16 years ago, and the third restaurant opened on State Street in Schenectady five years ago.
The Manhattan restaurant closed in 2017, and now the Hudson site is following in its footsteps. The Mexican Radio in Schenectady remains open.
Young and Selden posted a lengthy statement on the restaurant’s website announcing the closure and claiming immigration enforcement and other issues, such as economic strains on the middle class, led to the decision to close.
The statement claims some of the restaurant’s long-standing employees have had to “upend their lives, scrambling to survive the increasing burdens the hardworking middle class is coping with every single day. The signs of losing them and the growing affliction this has created for our local business community are now visible everywhere. HELP Wanted. There is no end in sight.”
Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, said there has been concern in the industry statewide about immigration raids, but this is the first restaurant closing she is aware of said to be related to immigration issues.
“There has been concern about the raids and what the impact might be on the industry, but I haven’t heard of other restaurants claiming ICE enforcement actions have been forcing shutdowns or affected their ability to do business,” Fleischut said. “This is the first I’ve heard of a restaurant closing due to this specific reason.”
Locally, MacCormack said the impact of the stepped-up ICE enforcement actions has spread throughout the community and has impacted the local economy.
“Hudson is based on the service industry, which is largely based on restaurants and bars, and historically, immigrants have played an important role in the service industry,” MacCormack said. “About 95% of the people we have worked with have employers and therefore their businesses have been impacted by immigration enforcement. And it’s not only in Hudson. They continue to raid workplaces and we think they are targeting specific businesses.”
In addition to local restaurants, MacCormack said other industries have also been impacted by the immigration crackdown initiated by the Trump administration in recent years, such as farming, landscaping and construction.
MacCormack claims the crackdown has far-reaching implications.
“They are blatantly racially profiling people,” MacCormack said. “I have talked to people in local businesses in Hudson who have been stopped in the streets, just walking, and asked to show their papers. That’s exactly what happened at Casa Latina — a woman who was from out of town and who didn’t work at Casa Latina was just going there for lunch and she was stopped on her way into the restaurant.”
ICE officials conducted an enforcement action in Hudson on Aug. 13 and arrested a woman on Green Street, outside Casa Latina restaurant. At the time, Walls confirmed the enforcement action but would not release further information.
MacCormack said any worker or employer who needs information about workplace or worker rights should contact his organization at 518-303-3848 or the website www.sanctuarycolumbiacounty.org.
“I would encourage business owners and employees to reach out to the Sanctuary Movement for resources to know your rights in the workplace because those are some of the most powerful tools we have,” MacCormack said.