ICE visit to Dearborn restaurant has residents on alert

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
ICE agents allegedly entered Hamido Restaurant, on Dearborn's east side, on Monday requesting to see records of employees.

Dearborn — Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents entered a Middle Eastern restaurant Monday, seeking information from owners, according to ICE and an employee.

Two ICE special agents entered Hamido Restaurant, located at 13251 W. Warren Ave., around 12:30 p.m. Monday and requested that a manager, Kassem Rizk, sign paperwork, he said. 

Rizk said the agents wanted all employment records for the restaurant for the last three years. Rizk refused. 

“They were very aggressive and wanted me to sign this paper releasing information to them,” he said. “I just told them no.”

There appeared to be no further ICE activity in the area, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said. 

Rizk said the agent said it was essential he sign the papers so they could conduct their government business. He said the form had generic wording and didn’t have a court order signed by a judge. 

“He told me that we were their 10th stop today,” he said. “I don’t know if he was lying to me but I sent them away.” 

Rizk said the officer replied, “OK, we’ll be back in a few days.” 

ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said special agents with Homeland Security Investigations served an I-9 audit notice today at a Dearborn business. A notice of inspection, an I-9, informs business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether they are complying with hiring laws. No arrests were made Monday, he said in a statement.

“HSI routinely conducts work site investigations in order to uphold federal law," Walls said. "HSI’s work site enforcement strategy continues to address both employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers and the workers themselves. These routine efforts are ongoing and not related to other operational activity,” according to the ICE statement.

“... HSI’s work site enforcement investigations often involve additional criminal activity, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, document fraud, worker exploitation and/or substandard wage and working conditions.” 

State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud spoke with Rizk, saying this is what they feared. 

“It’s important to emphasize this isn’t something new,” Hammoud said. “ICE has used this tactic of attacking poor communities like east Dearborn with working immigrants, and we have to be prepared without panicking.” 

Hammoud said ICE establishes fear in communities like Dearborn by announcing raids and entering businesses without having to launch full-scale raids. 

He, other politicians and advocacy groups launched Know Your Rights efforts on social media, with key rules in multiple languages to keep residents informed. 

“People need to know what they have to tell government officials and what they don’t,” Hammoud said. “We, as a community, need to stay strong together and push back against this because it’s for no justifiable reason. 

Hamido Restaurant

“Dearborn is a beautiful diverse city and we’re strong together because of that,” he said. 

Many local organizations issued statements during the weekend saying they are alarmed by anticipated raids by ICE and Department of Homeland Security agents.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan was aware of the Dearborn incident. The nonprofit is working with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, urging people to know their rights.

“This is the intrusive ICE activity that happens every day,” said Abril Valdes, an ACLU of Michigan Immigrant Rights staff attorney. “Our communities shouldn’t have to live in fear that parents won't come home from work, or kids won't return from school, or a knock at the door could rip a family apart.”

Elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, shared a know your rights video on  Facebook urging people who may encounter officers to not open the door without a signed judge order, consult an attorney and remain calm.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, issued a community advisory this weekend for immigrant families, warning they may be targeted by ICE this week.

The American Human Rights Council said it was  alarmed by the anticipated raids and see measures being taken “for political expediency and to score points.”

"We are deeply troubled by raids and rumors of raids," said Imad Hamad, AHRC executive director. "Democratic societies cannot operate normally under constant fear and anxiety of massive and disruptive law enforcement activity not connected to safety or the well-being of communities. It's time to stop using immigration as a political football by finding a real solution consistent with democratic values and human rights.” 

Twitter: @SarahRahal_