25 Twin Cities eateries turn up the heat to raise money to help separated migrant families

Tracy Singleton and Luis Patino are part of Restaurants Rising.
Tracy Singleton, the owner of Birchwood Cafe in Seward, and Luis Patino, the owner of Cafe Racer, also in Seward, are two of 25 small business owners who will donate a percentage of sales on Tuesday to raise money for the Florence Project.
Halen Sidla, Birchwood staff

Some Twin Cities restaurants are cooking up social activism Tuesday.

Twenty-five eateries will donate a percentage of their sales to help reunite separated migrant families on the Arizona border.

Since early May, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the southern U.S. border, according to the Department of Homeland Security, as part of a new immigration strategy by the Trump administration that prompted a widespread outcry. He rescinded the policy, but the issue continues to nag his administration.

"For me personally, but certainly in general for the restaurant community, issues of immigrant rights are really important," said Danny Schwartzman, owner of Common Roots Cafe in Uptown. "This industry is largely staffed by immigrants and many of us have immigrant backgrounds."

Schwartzman's business is part of the fundraising effort by members of the Minnesota chapter of Main Street Alliance called Restaurants Rising. The Main Street Alliance is a national network of small business owners in 12 states formed in 2008 to speak out on the issue of health care reform, according to its website. It has since taken on issues affecting small businesses and local economies.

Most of the participating restaurants are giving 20 percent of sales to the Florence Project, a nonprofit immigrant legal service. Two restaurants plan to donate half of their sales.

Maite Garcia, a staff lawyer with the project that represents children, said the Minnesota fundraiser is inspiring. It is needed, she added, because the organization's work — locating and reuniting parents with children detained in different parts of the country — is daunting and expensive.

"It's been particularly challenging 'cause you have children that have been separated from their mom or dad and it's created a whole new set of work for us in terms of representing them," she said.

Corinne Horowitz, director of the state chapter of Main Street Alliance, said Restaurant Rising was first held last year when 30 member restaurants donated $30,000 to the Immigration Law Center of Minnesota.

"They didn't think the fundraiser would become an annual thing," she said. "It's unfortunate that we're doing it again."

She said this year, members "wanted to do something to address what was happening at the border."

Lianne Wadi, owner of Holy Land in Minneapolis, said, "Coming from a family of immigrants, we believe we need to help one another."

Correction (July 10, 2018): Corinne Horowitz's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. The article has been updated.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.