West Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A t-shirt being worn and sold at a West Columbia Mexican restaurant is creating a bit of controversy.
The shirts are at Taco Cid. They say "How to Catch an Illegal Immigrant." Accompanying the words is a drawing of a box with a stick being held over two tacos--a makeshift trap.
A photo of a Taco Cid employee wearing one of the shirts started getting national attention over the weekend after it was tweeted by Corey Hutchins, a reporter at the Free Times.
After this story generated buzz on many social media sites, News19 went straight to the restaurant Tuesday and found out the owner is selling shirts.
While it may be obvious that West Columbia's Taco Cid is more Mexican restaurant than political epicenter, owner Leanne Snelgrove says the last twenty-four hours have been anything but a siesta.
"Not nationwide, No. I had a clue it would be a hit around town but not nationwide."
Snelgrove says she's received comments from praising the shirts to more extreme measures, "we've received death threat's, we've received bomb threats."
Snelgrove claims even her husband was fired by a company and replaced by illegal immigrants. News 19 reporter Nate Stewart asked Snelgrove, "What do you say to someone who see's the shirt and says, 'that's racist.'"
"That's your opinion," said Snelgrove. "If you support illegal immigrants then you support paying tax dollars for other people who just worked under the table. Let me tell you, small business owners - we pay taxes!"
We showed the shirt to Sandy Jones, a Pastor at a prominently Hispanic Church is the Midlands.
"I think it's very racist, I think it's a very racist comment," said Jones. "If that's not likely illegal immigrants to animals you can capture with a box I don't know what else."
Jones says she's offended by the shirt and wants the restaurant to stop selling it and to apologize.
"When national news is going to hear and think that everyone is South Carolina thinks like this, that hurts me personally. It makes me very sad," said Jones.
Snelgrove says she'll keep selling the shirts, even if she is surprised by all the attention.
"The taco business is booming," said Snelgrove. "Come see us."
On its website, Taco Cid has issued this statement about the shirt:
"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," it says in part. "As most tax paying Americans, we do 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, which our government has simply chosen to look the other way. Is it "racist" to disagree with those who are not supporting the American system?"
Leanne Snelgrove tells News19 they got the idea after going on a cruise to Key West and saw similar shirts. The shirts are selling for $35 and Snelgrove says she's been mailing them all over the world.
"It's not racist. It's immigrants - illegal Immigrants. It was just a t-shirt. Just a t-shirt," said Snelgrove.