Should businesses stay out of political debates? 

A taco truck in Buffalo, NY learned the hard way that the answer to that question is yes. 

Time and time again, businesses that choose to take sides in this highly-polarized environment might appease a few, but upset a host of other customers on the other side of the issue. In the end, they lose out.

In this case, the Llyod taco truck stepped into the national immigration debate when it sold tacos and burritos to workers at a federally-run detention center for illegal immigrants in Batavia, NY. The workers were mostly Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) workers.

A few people on Twitter were mad that the taco truck sold food to ICE workers. If the Llyod’s ignored them, this issue might have gone away.

Instead, the taco truck apologized for “a lapse in judgment,” thinking they were being sensitive and woke. Their apology cost them lost revenue from canceled pre-arranged food stops and triggered thousands of comments critical of their treatment of law enforcement and ICE. 

The backlash was so overwhelming that the owners held a press conference to apologize for the apology:

“We serve all communities, we go to all neighborhoods, we are not political. Why would we be? How can any business choose sides in our politically divided country and ever hope to succeed?”

This owner couldn’t have been more right, except his epiphany came way too late.

By caving to a few angry anti-ICE, pro-illegal immigration supporters on Twitter, they chose a side rather than acknowledging that they should serve all customers regardless of the work they do.

ICE agents are law enforcement and they are people. They don’t deserve to be discriminated against. Believing that ICE agents should not be able to buy a meal is just as wrong as believing that a black person shouldn’t be served.

Sadly, there is both disrespect for law enforcement and disrespect for immigration enforcement.

We are a nation that is welcoming to immigrants, but our immigration system rests on laws that should be abided by and enforced. The men and women who enforce those laws are doing a thankless and demoralizing but necessary job.

If we want to change our immigration system — and we believe that it does need reforms — that’s the job of Congress and the administration. It is not for taco trucks, mayors, and local officials to mistreat those enforcing our laws.

Other businesses have stepped into the political fray. The Red Hen refused to serve former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It closed after backlash for some time.

Other restaurants stood by while protestors entered their locations and harassed Trump cabinet members trying to dine in peace. Would they have allowed Tea Party protestors to harass Obama staffers?

The point is that businesses that take sides in political debates should beware that the backlash may be swift and painful to their bottom line.