WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A photo of a t-shirt reportedly worn by an employee of Taco Cid, a Mexican-style restaurant in West Columbia, has sparked accusations of racism.
The shirt pictures a pair of tacos underneath a wooden trap with the phrase "How to Catch an Illegal Immigrant" written just above in red, white, and green lettering -- the same three colors on the Mexican national flag.
The photo appeared on social networks and across news media websites over the weekend. The backlash prompted the store's owner to post a response to the uproar on the restaurant's website.
"Our t-shirts were created as a witty and comical statement regarding ILLEGAL immigrants. There are NO racial nor hate remarks towards any specific ethnic group," said the statement.
The statement goes to say that employees are not forced to wear the shirt, and that the owners believe illegal immigrants "are burdening the system we support and live under, thereby, causing us to work harder and pay higher taxes to support the illegal activities."
The owner, Leanne Snelgrove, says she's gotten calls from as far as the United Kingdom pledging support. She's even got one woman who is taking orders for the shirt.
Snelgrove says the genesis of the shirt began in during a trip to Key West.
"We actually ran across 'How to Catch an Illegal Immigrant', and we just spun off of that, put our name on it, and printed them up," said Snelgrove. "We've been wearing them for two months, but apparently, it's just now hit national."
Despite support, Snelgrove says her family-owned business has also gotten a lot of negative response as well, such as threats of bombings, shootings, and plenty of other violent threats.
But Snelgrove also wanted to clarify the shirts, saying that illegal immigrants aren't just those of Latin decent.
"I'm not for illegal immigrants," said Snelgrove. "I'm not a racist. There are illegal immigrants all over the world; Canada, France, everywhere. Just so happens we used tacos because we have a Mexican restaurant."
Snelgrove's only Hispanic co-worker, Riley, is taking shirt orders. Riley says she's not offended, but didn't want to talk about it on record.
Tito Hill-Guebara, a Latino pastor in Columbia, believes the shirts are ridiculous. He says the message is disrespectful and perpetuates an unnecessary stereotype about Hispanics.
"This is the time where we should be one nation under God. Be united," said Hill-Guebara.
Snelgrove also says she has one shirt for someone in particular if he wants it.
"If Jadeveon Clowney likes to come over here, we've got a free shirt for him," said Snelgrove.