Chuy's raids create unrest in Tucson's immigrant community

Published: Apr. 23, 2011 at 1:00 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:19 PM MST
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Local immigrant families were afraid of what could be next, after the owners of four Tucson area Chuy's restaurants were charged with hiring illegal workers.

Mark Evenson of Paradise Valley, his son Christopher Evenson of Oro Valley, and their accountant Diane Strehlow of Tempe were all free on bail Friday night.

On Wednesday, federal agents served search warrants at Chuy's restaurants in Arizona and California, sparking fear that more raids could be coming at other locations.

A total of 40 illegal immigrants were taken into custody in Arizona, 18 of them from Chuy's restaurants in Tucson.

The raid had the immigrant humans rights Coalicion de Derechos Humanos speaking out about how this was tearing apart hard working families, and sparking fear among the immigrant community.

Many had heard the rumors, but when the feds came calling, it still caught them off guard.

Kat Rodriguez, the program director at Derechos Humanos said she got a heads up moments before it happened.

"We were contacted by I.C.E's public relations person about thirty minutes before the noon deadline when the warrants went into effect," said Rodriguez.

When the clock struck, Rodriguez said their emergency phone lines were slammed with people calling to find out what was going on, and wondering if their place of work would be next.

"Many of the people working here have worked for years and years and years. They've lived here, have jobs, homes, and an established life here," said Rodriguez.

Others in the community felt, there have to be consequences for breaking the law and taking such risks.

"First of all, we do have plenty of Americans who could take those jobs. We all are supposed to take due diligence on what we do, obviously they knew they were hiring illegal's," said Steve Mendelsohn, owner of Billy Bryant's Bar-B-Q.

Rosy Scamehorn, who's daughter has been desperately trying to find work, thought it was a  good thing as well.

"My daughter was looking for work for a year and a half.  The illegal's, I know they get lower wages and get paid money under the table. I think my daughter might have found a job and we wouldn't have lost our house," said Scamehorn.

Staff at Derechos Humanos said it was the families and young children who ended up suffering and bearing the scars of raids and arrests, like the one at Chuy's.

"If you were to ask any of those workers that were picked up if there was a legal way for you to have done this, not one of them would tell you no," said Rodriguez.

In a statement, officials with Immigration and Customs enforcement said, their goal was not just to round up illegal aliens, but to target the employers, and send the message that they are not going to tolerate this abuse of the law.