A lawyer for an undocumented restaurant worker said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) wrongly detained his client while he was being deposed in a lawsuit against his employer, according to WNYC.
Brooklyn resident Xue Hui Zhang, who previously worked as a cook for the now-defunct Albany restaurant Ichiban, is suing his former employers for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, saying he is owed $200,000 in back pay. Last Monday, Zhang’s attorney Adam Dong said his client was detained when they broke for lunch while Zhang was giving his deposition at the defense counsel’s office.
"We got out of the car and we walked toward the diner entrance," Dong told WNYC, at which point he said five or six ICE agents "stopped us and said, 'Mr. Zhang can you come with us?'"
Dong said the agents told him Zhang had an outstanding warrant. He is currently being held at a Buffalo detention facility, according to WNYC.
"It is not difficult to infer ICE was there because someone tipped them off, they were waiting for Mr. Zhang to come out to arrest him,” Dong said, adding that Zhang believes his former employers tipped off the agency.
Matthew Mann, who is representing Ichiban in the lawsuit, denied his clients made any such tipoff, according to WNYC. "I have no first hand knowledge of the facts of Mr. Zhang’s arrest," Mann said. "My clients have assured me that they did not call ICE."
ICE has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Department of Labor not to detain or arrest workers in the process of suing an employer for workplace violations, according to WNYC.
"The goal of this MOU is to prevent what happened in this case, which is employer retaliation, and ICE being the assistant to the retaliation," attorney John Troy, whose firm is also representing Zhang, told the outlet, adding that he plans to cite the MOU when he seeks to free Zhang.
The Hill has reached out to ICE for comment. A spokesperson for the agency told WNYC that "ICE did nothing in violation of this memo."