Illegal Immigration Affects Restaurant Industries
A large portion of undocumented workers are chefs, cooks and dishwashers, and yet the Arizona State Legislature is considering Senate Bill 1490 that will have strong enforcement on restaurants hiring illegal immigrants.
By Heather Yako
PHOENIX - A new bill is being considered by the Arizona Senate that will change the way the food industry run their businesses.
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, is sponsoring Senate Bill 1490, which requires a county to receive documentation showing an American citizenship or alien status prior to issuing a food service working card. This FSW card is a document that is issued by a county that will certify an individual based upon their requirements to handle, serve, prepare or even give away food. The bill also triggers those who work in the kitchen area, washing dishes along with relative activity.
"My goal is to displace all illegals from [the food industry]," Gould said to State Press Magazine.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center it was estimated in 2008 that illegal immigrants make up about 20 percent of chefs and cooks, and about 28 percent of dishwashers.
Lorenzo Santillan, 23, works in the food industry and studied culinary arts at a community college in Phoenix. Santillan is currently the head chef for an independent catering business. Although, he's an undocumented immigrant, being a person that works in the industry illegaly scares Lorenzo each and every day.
"It makes me nervous, It's a headache to have to wake up every day and think, what's going on in Arizona today," Lorenzo said. "I would have to leave the state because my life is based on cooking."
The FSW card will certify the U.S. citizen to be able to work in any county. Lorenzo mentioned the ease of the process, however it frightens him that they will be checking for illegal documentation.
Under the proposed legislation a county cannot issue an FSW card to an individual who is not able to provide documentation of their citizenship or alien status. For example, a driver's license, U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport can prove their immigration status. If a person has limited authorization that has expired than that person must be able to provide their documentation as well as getting their FSW card renewed.
Mike, who asked for his name to be changed due to his relation with Santillan, is a culinary arts professor at a community college in Phoenix. He also owns the catering business where Santillan works. He is well aware that Santillan is an undocumented immigrant but says that he is important to his business.
"He is taking the aspect of being my protégé," Mike said. "The quality of work that he does I can't get anywhere else."
He mentions that he's not a "big fish" that has 20 to 30 undocumented workers however he believes he has a lot to contribute and has put himself and graduated college.
"It would be very difficult for me to lose [Santillan] because he's my No. 2 guy and he has been there every step of the way with me," Mike said.