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Acclaimed NYC Mexican Restaurateur Staves Off Potential Deportation for Now

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Now Marco Saavedra will have to wait until at least January

La Morada Photo by Robert Sietsema

Marco Saavedra, an immigration rights activist who helps runs celebrated Bronx Oaxacan restaurant La Morada with his family, has at least temporarily avoided potential deportation and continues to fight his case for asylum in federal immigration court.

After tense hours of argument and deliberation, a judge asked attorneys to submit their final arguments in writing by January 17, after which a decision will be reached. On Facebook, Saavedra thanked supporters who gathered with him yesterday for their encouragement.

Saavedra, who came to the United States with his parents when he was three years old, “self-deported” in 2013 — flying to Mexico with a group of other “dreamers” calling themselves the “Dream 9” and seeking re-entry to the U.S. in protest of American treatment of immigrants. Before Dream 9, in 2012, Saavedra turned himself in to immigration authorities in Florida, purportedly exposing cases of medical neglect and alleged violations of due process at an immigration center there.

“Landing in jail was part of my attempt to draw attention to ‘dreamers’ like me, immigrants who were brought here illegally as children by their parents and who want to become U.S. citizens because this is our home,” he wrote in a 2015 New York Times opinion article.

Saavedra’s asylum case is “a plea for protection in the place he has lived for the past 26 years and where he calls home,” his representatives wrote. If deported to Mexico, his activist work would put him in danger, Saavedra’s lawyers ague — and his family needs him here.

Not just celebrated for its food — a mix of Mexican and indigenous, pre-Hispanic cuisine — La Morada has been embraced as a community and activist space in Mott Haven. Bright letters on the front door read: “Refugees Welcome,” and the business often promotes political events and rallies on social media.

“We have a really big fan club that supports us,” Yajaira Saavedra, Marco’s sister, told Eater NY earlier this year, “so we use our platform as a way to elevate issues in our community.”

Saavedra’s immigration case, while unique, follows a year of highly public immigration-related battles in the NYC restaurant industry. An NYC pizza delivery man detained by ICE last year also captured public attention, as did a series of protests from an activist group, Rise and Resist, at NYC restaurants that carried bread from a bakery that laid off undocumented workers.

Those issues are hitting close to home with Saavedra’s immigration case. “Today I work in my family’s well-reviewed Mexican restaurant,” Saavedra told the judge yesterday. “My father is disabled and diabetic, and both my parents need my help as they approach middle age.”

La Morada was closed yesterday so that Saavedra’s family could support him. Today, it’s back open, serving tlayudas and moles while waiting to see what’s next. If Saavedra is not granted asylum, his entire family plans to return to Mexico with him, they tell the Times.

La Morada

308 Willis Avenue, Bronx, NY 10454 (718) 292-0235 Visit Website