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Very Real

VIDEO: White Man Threatens To Call ICE After Seeing People Speak Spanish At A Restaurant

“I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here,” he ranted.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

A white man caused a scene at a New York restaurant earlier this week after he noticed customers and an employee speaking Spanish. Enraged, as he appears in the above screenshot of the viral video, he threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement to have them “taken out of [his] country.”

The incident occurred around lunchtime on May 15 at a Fresh Kitchen in Midtown, the New York Daily News reports. A video of the encounter was shared on Facebook by Edward Suazo, who wrote that his wife and her best friend were ordering their food and talking to an employee in Spanish when the man “jumped in.” The 54-second clip has since been viewed over one million times. As seen in the screenshot above, an agitated white man ranted to someone who appears to be an employee, saying that “your clients and your staff are speaking Spanish to staff when they should be speaking English.”

“Every person I listen to — he spoke it, she spoke it, she’s speaking it. This is America,” said the man in the video. “And my guess is, they're not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country. If they have the balls to come here and live off of my money — I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. The least they could do — the least they could do is speak English.”

In response to one of the women who mocked him off camera, the man apparently retorted that maybe she shouldn’t eat the sandwich she was holding and should “take a break from the food.” She responded, “Maybe you should get hit by a car!”

Management eventually asked the man to leave because was he “causing the trouble, screaming at people,” as one witness told Gothamist. The manager who handled the situation told the New York Daily News that the customer and employee were “speaking Spanish because they are friends. He got mad, waiting in line for his food. He stormed out.” Despite how infuriating the man’s comments were, “He's a customer, so I had to stay professional and ask him to leave,” the manager also said.

In a statement to Eater, Fresh Kitchen commented that it “welcomes everyone from all different type of culture, especially in New York City” and called the man’s comments “not right at all.”

Aside from one unidentified customer who called the ranting man an “ignorant asshole,” it appears that not many other customers intervened. As one witness explained to Gothamist, “People are taught not to be bystanders, but it’s hard to get involved. This guy was really, really angry.”

As a reference, only 51 percent of New Yorkers actually speak English at home, according to a 2012 WNYC report. Spanish and Spanish Creole speakers comprise the bulk of the non-English speaking population — about 25 percent, or 1.87 million residents. A 2011-2015 Census American Community Survey also projects Spanish speakers to be 25%, at 1.93 million.

 (Photo: Screenshot via Facebook/Edward Suazo)