A Michigan Restaurant Owner Refused to Let ICE Agents Enter Her Kitchen

Next time, better bring the whole cavalry. Photo: cafezola/Instagram

ICE’s spot-checks for undocumented workers are becoming de rigueur in the restaurant industry these days, and apparently that’s started pushing restaurateurs to respond with bold moves of their own. The husband-and-wife owners of a café in Ann Arbor, Michigan, turned away a team of gun-totting ICE agents yesterday who tried to search their kitchen.

Alan Zakalik said two immigration officials walked into Café Zola around 2 p.m. and asked about one of their workers. When it became clear they wanted entry to the kitchen so they could hunt for the individual, Zakalik’s wife, Hediye Batu — who was there by herself at the time — told them they needed to scram. The agents were reportedly in uniforms marked “Police” and visibly armed. “They looked pretty equipped,” Zakalik tells MLive. He says the restaurant wasn’t crowded by that point in the afternoon, but a few diners still noticed the commotion and didn’t appreciate “the intimidation factor” of “people com[ing] in with guns.”

A spokesperson for the agency says the incident was merely “part of routine, daily targeted operations conducted by ICE in this region and around the country every day.” He clarified that no arrests were made, and the officers left after Batu refused to give them access to the premises.

ICE’s reputation kind of precedes it right now, in Ann Arbor especially — that’s where, back in May, agents made sure to enjoy breakfast at the restaurant they were raiding before arresting three of its workers (who all turned out to be documented). This struck some members of the community as calloused, or backward at the very least, but it was definitely the correct order if agents wanted to make sure they’d get fed.

Restaurant Owner Refuses to Let ICE Agents Enter Her Kitchen