Immigration Inquiry Draws Protest at Tom Cat Bakery

The protest over a Department of Homeland Security investigation that began in December and threatened the jobs of several immigrant workers at Tom Cat Bakery in Long Island City, Queens, was meant to begin at 6 a.m. on Friday.

But at 3 a.m., a few protesters arrived at the factory and chained themselves to the bakery’s trucks, disrupting morning deliveries. Four people were arrested, the police said.

By 7, more than 100 people had gathered in the rain, carrying signs that read “No Human Is Illegal” and “Rise and Resist.” Members of a marching band, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, played as a group of 100 people marched back and forth along 10th Street, chanting in both Spanish and English.

Others in the food business around New York joined in the demonstrators’ call for “A Day Without Bread.” Eli and Max Sussman, brothers who run the Brooklyn restaurant Samesa, posted signs drawing attention to the protest, and to the rights of immigrant workers. On Friday, they donated 50 cents from the sale of every item that includes pita bread to a fund set up for workers. And at the register, they collected additional money.

Yemeni bodega owners in Bay Ridge and other parts of southern Brooklyn put up posters in solidarity and in some cases refused to sell any bread on Friday. Many of the bodega owners who shut their stores in February, to protest President Trump’s travel ban, feel that the most vulnerable and weakest are being targeted, said Rabyaah Althaibani, a Yemeni-American activist.

Tom Cat Bakery, which employs about 180 workers in Long Island City, opened in 1987 and was acquired last July by Yamazaki Baking Company, one of Japan’s largest bread producers; it supplies breads to many New York restaurants and stores.

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The protest was prompted by a federal investigation that began late last year and threatened the jobs of several immigrant workers.


Credit
Clay Williams for The New York Times

Last month, the company advised workers that it was being investigated by federal immigration officials.

Henry Rivera, an employee for 11 years, said he and 30 other workers were each called into a private meeting with a manager and told that they could lose their jobs if they didn’t produce paperwork by this Friday showing they could work legally in the United States.

“A lot went through my head,” said Mr. Rivera, 29, a father of two and an immigrant from Honduras, who spoke in Spanish. “Like, how will I pay my rent, and my bills.”

Brandworkers, a nonprofit group that is an advocate for food-manufacturing workers, began organizing protests with Tom Cat employees.

Rachael Yong Yow, a spokeswoman for the New York field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the Homeland Security Department, would neither confirm nor deny that federal officials were investigating the bakery….

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