April 8, 2017; N.Y. Daily News
In what can only be described as a wildly courageous act of integrity, immigrant workers at the popular Tom Cat Bakery in Queens showed up with a crowd of supporters in front of Trump Tower on Saturday to protest the president’s immigration policies.
The Department of Homeland Security began its audit of the gourmet bakery, which produces bread on a large scale for New York’s restaurants, during the Obama administration. Thirty-one employees, many of whom have worked at the factory for decades as it expanded to cover a full city block, had been told to produce their citizenship papers by April 21st or be fired and possibly deported.
“We work hard, pay taxes, and have built Tom Cat into a hugely successful company that helps make New York City’s economy strong,” said Ana Campos, an employee at the factory and a member of Brandworkers. “We refuse to be discarded like stale bread.” According to its website, Brandworkers “is a nonprofit organization bringing local food production workers together for good jobs and a sustainable food system.”
The Village Voice reflected the same worker sentiment when it reported on the situation in March.
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“After hearing this news we couldn’t believe it,” said Josias D’Avilla, a Peruvian immigrant who has worked for Tom Cat for ten years. D’Avilla and some of his colleagues picketed outside Tom Cat’s Long Island City headquarters on Tuesday morning. “We’ve given so many years to the company, so many sacrifices that made this company go. We picked up this company from the ground as workers, with so many years that we gave to this company with our lives.”
Tom Cat Bakery had secured an extension to give workers more time to locate and assemble their citizenship paperwork. Still, some feel that the problem resides as much with the company as with DHS:
City Council Member Mark Levine addressed the workers, urging the Tom Cat to stand by its workers and offer them work-visa sponsorship to allow them to continue to stay. “We reject the racist policies of Donald Trump’s ICE, which have targeted decent hard-working New Yorkers who have done nothing but contribute to this community, contribute to this economy and made our city and country a better place,” Levine said. “There is no justification for targeting these workers. The targeting of these workers by ICE runs contrary to our values as New Yorkers, contrary to our values as Americans, and contrary to our interests.”