The staff of a Mexican restaurant in Houston, Texas are being threatened with deportation by angry conservative customers for keeping a mask rule in their restaurant after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate.
Abbott last week rescinded the statewide mask mandate while the vast majority of residents remain unvaccinated, making it difficult for business owners to enforce public health guidance.
After Abbott’s decision, Picos Restaurant announced it would continue requiring masks. But the reaction to their decision was disheartening, co-owner Monica Richards said: Several people sent hateful messages through social media and called the restaurant, threatening to report staffers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Texas Tribune reports.
“It was just horrific,” Richards told the news outlet. “People don’t understand unless you’re in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during COVID. For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe, so that this doesn’t continue to happen, just makes zero sense to us.”
Richards, whose family has served Mexican food in Houston for over three decades, says she has seen a side of people in the pandemic that she had not before.
“Being Hispanic, and going through that immigration process, and finally receiving your papers, and then for somebody to start threatening you after you’ve been through all that, that’s crazy,” she said. “It’s just heartbreaking.
As noted by the Tribune, “the decision to lift the mandate will make Texas the largest state to not require masks, which has not come easily for many businesses that are navigating enforcement of mask rules to protect employees and customers while facing backlash.”
If a restaurant requires masks, it is unfair to argue the choice infringes on business, Texas Restaurant Association spokesperson Anna Tauzin said.
“This is a decision business owners are making, and it’s right for them,” Tauzin said. “For a group that touts personal responsibility is something key to good stewardship of your business, it seems strange that they might criticize or throw insults at people who are trying to do just that. It’s alarming.”