US & Canada

New York lawyer threatens to report Spanish-speaking staff to authorities

Screenshot of ranting customer from a Facebook video posted by Eddie Suazo on 16 May 2018 Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Local media report that the man seen in the video is a New York-based lawyer

A video of a New York man threatening to report Spanish-speaking restaurant workers to US immigration authorities has gone viral on social media.

The footage shows a customer berating staff for speaking Spanish at the premises in Manhattan.

"Your staff are speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English," he tells one employee.

Local media report have named the man as 42-year-old New York lawyer Aaron Schlossberg.

In the clip he threatens to call the US deportation agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"My guess is they're not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country," he says.

Other patrons at the restaurant can be seen laughing at the man during the incident on Tuesday, which was captured in footage posted on Facebook and contains some strong language.

On Thursday, Mr Schlossberg was filmed by a scrum of reporters as he left his home.

He used an umbrella to hide his face, refused to respond to journalists' questions, and called police on them.

"Please send help," he is seen saying into his mobile phone.

"They're claiming things that aren't true… grabbing me, not letting me walk," he said.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has more than doubled its goal of raising $500 to send a Mexican mariachi band to Mr Schlossberg's law office.

As more money poured in on Thursday the organisers updated the page - "mariachis for Aaron" - to say they also now plan to send a taco truck, and a piñata to his office.

On Thursday, two Democratic city lawmakers filed a formal complaint against the lawyer through the New York State Unified Court System.

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Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Bronx Borough President Ruban Diaz said the video was a "humiliating and insulting attack on the more than 50 years of progress that this nation has made since the Civil Rights movement".

Online users have called for Mr Schlossberg to lose his licence to practise law, and an online business page he uses has been inundated with negative reviews.

Separate footage shows a man resembling Mr Schlossberg defending President Donald Trump during a row with counter-protesters at a rally.

He shouts that Mr Trump was justified in calling "some" Mexican immigrants rapists in a 2015 campaign speech.

ICE criticised Mr Schlossberg's recorded threat in the restaurant to report workers to the agency.

"ICE's Tip Line is solely for the purposes of making legitimate reports of suspected criminal activity," Rachael Yong Yow, the spokeswoman for the New York field office of ICE, told the New York Times.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter that the city's diversity was its strength, adding that it was home to people who share more than 200 languages.

There are currently 56.5 million Hispanic Americans in the US, according to the Pew Research Centre.

Bitta Mostofi, NYC's commissioner of immigrant affairs, told the BBC: "This is part of what makes us a great city. It's the diversity we celebrate.

"What we saw happened in this restaurant, is not something that belongs to our city and it's not a part of what New Yorkers truly value about who we are."

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