Somali-native Abdiqani Elmi hasn’t seen as many customers lately at Eric Grill, the small Somali restaurant he co-owns in a strip mall on Chicago’s North Side.
“We are not making a lot of money right now,” Elmi said. “We opened in April of 2016 … It’s just the beginning, the beginning of the business.”
Elmi estimated that up to 70 percent of his customers are from Somalia or other East African countries. He said some of his loyal customers have not returned from trips to their homeland, and he fears they may not be allowed back under President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
“They come for breakfast, they come for lunch, they come for dinner,” he said. “They come for snack, tea, coffee.”
He said Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Somalia, has been “the only topic” of conversation in the restaurant the last two weeks. A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a block on Trump’s controversial order, and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.
Elmi, who said he came to Chicago from Somalia in 2004 as a refugee and is now a U.S. citizen, said that he has a number of customers who were caught in Somalia on their annual visit to their home country.
“I know people who didn’t have a green card who left,” Elmi said. “I’m worried that (they) can’t come back, and (will) get stuck there … I was expecting them to come back and be customers.”
Editor’s note: WBEZ spoke with Chicago-area residents from each of the seven countries named in President Donald Trump’s travel ban. They spoke about how the uncertainty is affecting their businesses, careers and students. Find all of their stories here.
Miles Bryan is a producer and reporter at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @miles__bryan.