Antonia Noori Farzan, Washington Post, October 29, 2019
For years, the most controversial thing about Lloyd Taco was its prices: $8.49 for a single burrito.
That all changed last week when the popular Buffalo, New York-based food-truck empire served Chorizo Mackin’ Cheese and Aztec Brownies to workers at a federal immigration detention facility in Batavia. After receiving a handful of “yikes” responses from leftists on social media, the company swiftly apologized and promised to make amends, only to spend the next few days bombarded with thousands of angry messages from conservatives who accused the regionally beloved chain of disrespecting law enforcement, veterans and America.
With the controversy beginning to cut into their profits, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials accusing them of discrimination, the beleaguered owners apologized again at a Monday news conference. This time, they said it had been a mistake to say that selling burritos to ICE employees was a mistake.
Despite Cimino’s fervently expressed desire to remain neutral – “We make tacos, not war,” he repeated during the news conference — Mexican food has emerged as a battleground in the Trump era’s culture wars, often serving as a proxy for immigrants. In 2018, amid widespread outcry over the administration’s family separation policy, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled by protesters while eating dinner at a D.C. Mexican restaurant. Just two months after that, a Mexican restaurant in Houston faced calls for a boycott when the owners enthusiastically welcomed Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he gave a speech calling for a crackdown on illegal immigration.
On Thursday, Lloyd Taco posted a profuse public apology on social media, saying that serving lunch at the detention facility was an “honest mistake.” Citing their commitment to hiring immigrant and refugee workers, the owners pledged to donate the day’s sales to Justice For Migrant Families WNY, a local group that advocates for the rights of undocumented immigrants.
“We’re sorry, Buffalo,” the apology concluded. “You deserve better.”
Some Buffalonians praised the response, calling it “thoughtful” and “refreshing.” In a statement, Justice For Migrant Families WNY called the apology proactive, and said the donations would be used “to fund much needed phones and food for immigrants who are currently detained or who have just been released from detention.”
But many others were angered by what they saw as an attack on law enforcement, and accused Lloyd Taco of caving to pressure from the left wing.
On social media, the company was flooded with more than 5,000 responses, nearly all of them angry, Cimino said on Monday. Critics accused Lloyd Taco of “siding with law breakers” and threatened to vandalize the company’s trucks. “You are a now a discriminatory organization, trying to be ‘woke’ and appeasing fascist violent misguided leftwing extremists,” read one typical comment. “Moderates like my family, once enjoyed your food, but we will never buy from you ever again for your traitorous Anti American Anti Law stance.”
On Monday, the company changed its tune. Calling the initial apology “hastily made,” Cimino said they had “reacted too quickly” to criticism, and pointed out that they offer a 50 percent discount to anyone in uniform.
“We’re big fans of the police,” Cimino said.
Asked if Lloyd Taco would make lunchtime stops at the detention center in future, though, the beleaguered taco entrepreneur refused to discuss what he deemed a hypothetical question. The status of the company’s planned donation to a local migrants-rights group also remains hazy, with both sides claiming that they haven’t heard from one another.
The company’s apology for apologizing appears to have done little to mollify critics, and, on social media, Lloyd Taco was blasted from both sides for refusing to firmly commit to a stance on federal immigration enforcement.
But by Monday night, many locals seemed sick of the controversy altogether, with one Twitter user deeming it “asinine and ridiculous.”