Suburban restaurants close after surprise raids by ICE agents

Some restaurants in west suburban St. Charles had to close this week. They say they didn't have enough staff after a series of surprise raids by immigration agents.

Now, immigration activists are calling on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency -- or "ICE" -- to back off. They say the raids are hurting families and businesses.

"Well I was working at my restaurant, typical day, normal day. And we just start seeing undercover cars come in,” said Erick Diaz.

Diaz was working in a downtown St. Charles restaurant Tuesday night when several ICE agents -- some carrying guns -- walked in with the name and picture of a man they said were looking for and demanded to talk to the kitchen staff.

"They didn't have no warrant. We told them they can't go in, because obviously no warrant,” Diaz said.

Other restaurants did let the ICE agents in and at “Francesca's” they took six kitchen workers into custody, apparently because all were undocumented.

On Thursday, immigration activists in Aurora gathered to condemn the restaurant raids which they say have recently targeted several Fox Valley communities.

Several St. Charles restaurants were forced to close or offer partial menus Tuesday night and Wednesday when undocumented kitchen staff bolted after hearing about the raids.

"My restaurant actually closed early because, like I said, all our kitchen guys were afraid to come in cause the ICE guys were coming around. Obviously you don't want to risk it,” Diaz said.

In a statement, ICE would not confirm the St. Charles action, but did say: "ICE officers are out in the community every day conducting targeted arrests. While looking for those specific individuals, ICE officers sometimes encounter others who are also in violation of U.S. immigration laws."

None of the restaurant owners would go on camera, but expressed frustration, saying they are forced to hire undocumented workers because they can't fill the jobs, even when offering more than minimum wage.