Philadelphia restaurant owners Cristina Martinez and Benjamin Miller have made it their mission to fight for undocumented workers’ rights, a cause that hits close to home.
Martinez, who successfully came to America in 2009, left behind a daughter, Karla, in Michoacan, Mexico. The couple, who are now married, thought Martinez’s immigration struggles were behind her. But lawyers informed them that because she entered the country illegally before, Martinez has to wait 10 years before she can even apply for a green card, which means she can’t go see her daughter.
The couple, therefore, saw an opportunity to use their restaurant, South Philly Barbacoa, to educate the community about undocumented workers’ rights in kitchens. Martinez explained that undocumented workers are often subjected to unfair working conditions because those heading the kitchen have the upper hand.
The couple felt it important to involve both chefs and consumers in the fight for workers’ rights. To raise awareness, they host dinners and film screenings to discuss the issue. They help immigrants learn English and they’ve spoken to the mayor. Because Philadelphia is a sanctuary city, Cristina and other undocumented immigrants are relatively safe.
As the couple continues its fight, Martinez said her goal is a big one that requires the involvement of everyone, both here and abroad.
“I want people to know that in every dish, in every breakfast, in every meal, in every dinner, there’s a Latin American hand that is cooking food for you,” she said.
This video was produced by Liz Martinez, edited by Maria Tridas and shot by William DeJessa and Brian Bentz.