While debate persists in online forums and emails to the City Council about whether Menlo Park should become a "sanctuary city," Jesse Cool's Flea Street Cafe has declared itself a "sanctuary restaurant."
The organic and local food destination, located at 3607 Alameda de las Pulgas in West Menlo Park, registered as a "sanctuary restaurant" on March 17, and is the only food establishment between Burlingame and Santa Cruz to be so registered, according to the movement's website, sanctuaryrestaurants.org.
Ms. Cool said she and the restaurant staff made this decision together, in an effort to support restaurant employees who are immigrants or whose family members are immigrants. She learned about the movement from a colleague and was a quick supporter.
The initiative is a joint project of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and Presente.org, according to its website. Registered restaurants with the group are said to promote a "zero tolerance policy for sexism, racism, and xenophobia, and (the belief) that there is a place at the table for all."
At Flea Street Cafe, signs are posted and fliers distributed in support of the initiative. Employees are informed of their rights when dealing with immigration officers. And for customers, at the bottom of each receipt is this message: "Immigrants Make America Great! We all come from families of immigrant descent."
The restaurant staff "were very moved," Ms. Cool said. "They felt like they were really respected and cared for."
All of the restaurant's employees are legal residents, Ms. Cool said, but that's hasn't kept some of them, particularly those with families from Mexico or Central or South America, from voicing concerns about what might happen during the Trump administration, given the president's plans to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S., restrict immigration and deport undocumented residents.
"They are our workforce and should be treated and paid with complete respect," Ms. Cool said, referring to employees who are immigrants. "They take care of me. They take care of my customers. We need to take care of them."
Some staff, she said, expressed concern that the move could deter some customers from eating there. So far, customer responses have been positive, but, she noted, negative responses may not be expressed publicly.
"If there are people that don't agree with us or think this is wrong and they don't want to dine with us, that's OK," she said. "There will be others who do. I think standing up during times like this for what you believe is right, is important."
To her, making a public expression of support for immigrants was a personally significant action. "My parents came through Ellis Island," said Ms. Cool. "A lot of our families started as immigrants – look at Trump's wife. To instill fear without really thoughtful consideration for people who may have come from other places and are living here, and have gone through due process to live here it's just scary."
Go to sanctuaryrestaurants.org for more information.
The Menlo Park City Council is scheduled to discuss passage of a sanctuary city ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday, April 4. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Menlo Park Civic Center.