In light of President Trump’s focus on anti-immigrant policies, restaurateurs across the country are facing a number of tough uncertainties over next four years. But for one Houston taco truck owner, Trump’s plans have become terrifyingly real.
According to National Public Radio, Taqueria Gomez owner Armando “Piro” Garcia Mendez was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials while preparing to open his truck a few weeks ago, and has since been detained in an ICE facility as he awaits deportation proceedings.
Garcia, who came to the United States from Guatemala in 1994 to escape being forced to join the country’s military, and was promptly deported back to his home country shortly after. He returned to Houston in defiance of the order, now more than twenty years old, which is what resulted in the February 2017 arrest.
While he is being held, Garcia’s wife and business partner Rosie is reportedly working 15-hour days to keep the long-standing truck running in his absence. "He's my right hand. He washed the trucks every day," Rosie told NPR. "He bought the meat and the vegetables. It takes two people to run these trucks. I don't know how I'll do it alone."
Unfortunately, Garcia’s arrest is already having an impact on business at Taqueria Gomez. An employee of Garcia’s told Houston Public Media that the truck had seen “fewer Latino customers,” and that both employees and regulars were “scared” to be there in the aftermath of Garcia’s arrest.
No timeline has been given for when Garcia could be deported to Guatemala, but a Houston-based attorney (and longtime friend) has established a GoFundMe to assist Garcia in paying “enormous” legal fees. At the time of this writing, the crowdfunding effort has raised more than $9,000 — nearly four times the original goal of $2,500.