People threaten to call ICE on Mexican restaurant staff after choice to keep mask requirement

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HOUSTON (KXAN) — The Hispanic co-owner of a Mexican restaurant in Texas is reeling after her restaurant and staff received hateful messages threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the business announced it would continue requiring masks for customers.

Monica Richards, co-owner of Picos, told the Washington Post the hate they’ve received has been “horrific.”

Earlier this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the end of the state’s mask mandate — the decision was met with acclaim from some and condemnation from others.

The end of the mandate has left restaurants — and industry that has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic — with many more tough choices. Now that they can open to full capacity and without masking, should they?

“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,” Richards told WaPo. “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.”

Abbott explained on Tuesday that increased vaccination numbers and declining case numbers were behind his controversial ending of the mandate. Now, he said, “People and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”

On Saturday, Picos Restaurant thanked the community for support, saying: “We can’t thank our loyal clientele enough! And all new customers who came in this weekend! We are so appreciative of every gesture large and small made for our staff! We will always be here for you!”

Richards called the threats “heartbreaking,” as she herself is an immigrant.

“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 told Washington Post.

As of Sunday, there are 144,998 active cases of COVID-19 in Texas, according to the Texas DSHS COVID-19 dashboard. Harris County, where Houston is located, has claimed the most cases since the start of the pandemic, with 357,558 confirmed.

In total, there have been 2,318,522 coronavirus cases and 44,367 deaths in Texas.