Local chefs participate in Chris' Jazz Cafe fundraiser for undocumented workers

Hadas Kuznits
January 16, 2019 - 6:45 pm
Ben Miller and Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa.

Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — With the partial government shutdown continuing over a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, the debate over immigration remains open.  

Meanwhile, some local chefs are working hard to bring attention to the plight of immigrants in the restaurant industry during a fundraiser Thursday evening at Chris' Jazz Cafe from 6 to 10 p.m.  

Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa — the chef behind Netflix's "Chef's Table" — said through her husband, business partner and translator, Ben Miller, it's so important for them to take part in raising money for the Popular Alliance for Undocumented Workers Rights.

"There's a necessity to make a change and as we're united, we can make a stronger impact in the restaurant industry," he said on her behalf.

Miller said participating in the Chris' Jazz Cafe fundraiser with Martinez's popular Mexican fixings is about more than just raising money.

"It's battling a lot of false narratives," he said. "It's important because I think there are a lot of straight-up lies that come from Donald Trump and Mike Pence."

He noted how people who come from across the border have contributed to restaurants for decades, from fine dining to fast food, and for that, he said they should be acknowledged.

As for people who say undocumented immigrants should simply follow the law: "There's not a path for many of the 11 million undocumented people here in this country. There's not a path to citizenship."

The couple say it's also important for those without a voice to be included in the conversation.

"Trying to share our story; trying to share people's stories who work in the restaurant industry who are hardworking, work for their families, don't make crimes," he added. "We want people to understand that a change is needed and we're looking to build unity and we want people to enjoy themselves, and we hope that people will be open to hearing the stories that are coming through."