Three employees from Sava’s restaurant on State Street were physically removed from the property by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel Wednesday morning.
In an interview with the Daily Wednesday afternoon, Bree Stilwell, the marketing director at Savco Hospitality — the group that encompasses Sava’s and Aventura restaurant, among others in Ann Arbor — said at approximately 11:30 that morning, several ICE agents, after eating breakfast at the facility, attempted to detain a Sava’s employee who was not on duty.
Unbeknownst to the restaurant, there is a warrant out for said employee’s arrest, though Stilwell said she does not have the details of the warrant.
Still, the agents proceeded to incorrectly arrest a different employee, before learning he had the appropriate documentation.
“(The ICE agents), in fact, apprehended the wrong employee, and immediately put him in handcuffs, upon exiting the building — taking the trash out in the rear of the building,” she said. “They put him in handcuffs. He proceeded to produce his legal paperwork and they released him immediately.”
Afterward, the agents apprehended three other employees, who did not have their documentation on hand. These employees were taken to the ICE office in Detroit, but were set to be released later on Wednesday.
“Immediately, our staff here worked very quickly to provide the appropriate documentation that we have to ensure that they would be released as soon as possible, which we have been assured will be later this afternoon,” she said.
Stilwell confirmed all Sava’s employees are documented.
“All of our employees, organization-wide — we work very, very hard to not only fully comply with the law but also validate all information that we receive as accurate,” she said. “All of these workers were in full compliance. They had up-to-date I-9 documentation as well as all of the various new-hire paperwork that any employee at Savco completes in order to work with us.”
At about 1:30 p.m., four to five protesters stood outside of Sava’s, though the number stood at about 20 earlier in the day. Among them was Rackham student Alejo Stark, who said it seemed like the ICE raid was calculated.
“Seems like, it was sort of, I’m just speculating here, it was an investigation of some kind because the ICE agents that came in came in strategically through the back and the front door,” Stark said. “There was about three folks that were arrested, three workers, that they were trying to get out of the building and apparently the ICE agent in the front door stopped them, identified them and arrested them.”
Stark said the group of protesters arrived too late to offset any ICE action.
“I think that we will always arrive late, at the point at which we don’t, then hopefully something will be able to disrupt the action, but I think we have to keep in mind that this will keep happening and that we have to continue to organize,” he said.
Protesters arrived as quickly as possible after the incident thanks to an immigration rapid response team, associated with Stop Trump Ann Arbor.
Jessica Prozinski, who works at the 24-hour phone line said a customer eating at Sava’s called a member of Stop Trump Ann Arbor who then contacted the phone line. Prozinski echoed Stark’s comment.
“Well over 20 people ended up coming down from the rapid response team to protest, but unfortunately we were too late,” she said. “I think the first person got there about ten minutes after ICE already left.”
Prozinski further explained the mission of the response team — to protect Ann Arbor from ICE infringement.
“The purpose of the rapid response team is to try to stop ICE from coming into our communities and taking people out,” she said. “We want to make Ann Arbor a real sanctuary city, and Ypsilanti a real sanctuary city, where ICE is not welcome, and they cannot come and arrest our residents.”
Stilwell said the ICE interference reflects a practice on behalf of new state and federal guidelines to apprehend potential illegal immigrants in our community, by way of intimidation and fear.
She added that moving forward, Savco will ensure all workers who are operating with such documentation will have it on their person at all times.
“We want to provide a very safe environment for them and to have this happen on our watch is so sad,” she said. “It saddens us all.”
According to Stilwell, in a Wednesday evening interview, two of the detainees had been released and one will spend the night at the ICE office.
Despite allegations the employees are in the United States illegaly, Stilwell reaffirmed they do have the legal paperwork.
This article was updated after a Wednesday evening interview with Stilwell.