Lawyer who threatened to call ICE about Spanish speakers is now target of complaint

The man captured on video making xenophobic comments about Spanish-speaking employees at a New York deli has been identified as lawyer Aaron Schlossberg in a formal complaint filed with the state court disciplinary system.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., both Democrats, filed the complaint in a letter on Thursday, saying that they believed the video depicted misconduct that should not be tolerated.

“What was witnessed in the vile video from Mr. Schlossberg, which has since gone viral, is [a] humiliating and insulting attack on the more than 50 years of progress that this nation has made since the civil rights movement,” the two wrote. “The audacity to profile and verbally assault innocent bystanders and customers in a public commercial location is a violation of our civil society.”

Spurred on in part by a tweet from New York activist and writer Shaun King on Tuesday, the video has kicked off a cascade of emotion in the midst of an ongoing national debate about immigration and racially charged questions about what it means to be an American.

The footage shows a man, dressed in a white button-down shirt and gray slacks, berating an employee at the fast-casual eatery Fresh Kitchen in midtown Manhattan because the staff was speaking Spanish.

“Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” he says. “Every person I listen to: He spoke it, he spoke it, she’s speaking it.”

The man then threatened to call immigration enforcement authorities on the employees, alleging, apparently with no evidence beyond the language that they were speaking, that they were not legal residents of the country.

“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 said. “If they have the balls to come here and live off my money — I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. The least they can do — the least they can do — is speak English.”

[‘My next call is to ICE!’: A man flipped out because workers spoke Spanish at a Manhattan deli]

The website for Schlossberg says he is a lawyer with a focus on commercial and insurance law and notes that he speaks Spanish and some French, Mandarin Chinese and Hebrew, in addition to English. His law office advertises that it can take phone calls in four foreign languages, an irony that was not lost on many commentators on social media.

Diaz said in an interview with The Washington Post that he thinks Schlossberg should be suspended or disbarred.

“This guy should know better. When you’re an attorney, you’re telling your clients what you should say and how you should conduct yourself,” he said. “Where in the Constitution or the law does it say that in a public place that you can’t use another language other than English? And then to add insult to injury he threatens to harass these people and that he will call ICE.”

Complaints are confidential unless a finding is made to sanction or reprimand the person, Lucian Chalfen, director of public information at the Unified Court System, said in an email statement.

Schlossberg did not respond to an immediate request for comment sent through his website.

Schlossberg has been the target of much anger since the rant was publicized. The Yelp listing for his law office was so flooded with thousands of one-star reviews — it had more than 2,900 as of Thursday afternoon — that the company announced it was conducting a “cleanup” of reviews motivated by news and not experiences with the business itself.

“Curious, how does a lawyer (years of studying and understanding Federal and State law) be openly racist? Especially in NY,” one woman, identified as Sherry D., wrote. “That bias attitude doesn’t sit well and quite frankly, it’s hypocritical to promote on your website ‘Spanish, French and Chinese’ speaking.”

The listing of the law office on Google was also modified to make it appear that it was a “Spanish restaurant,” according to screenshots shared online before the listing was fixed.

The video kicked off a mad dash in New York as reporters from the city’s tabloid newspapers, the Daily News and New York Post, rushed to confront him about his statements. With cameras rolling, a couple of reporters pursued him down the street in the rain even as he began to run away, asking him pointed questions as he shielded himself from them and their cameras under an umbrella. Another local reporter approached him at a courthouse in Queens.

In response to questions from The Washington Post, ICE declined to comment on the video but said that its tip line should be used to make “legitimate reports of suspected criminal activity” and not “as an instrument to intimidate or harass.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Schlossberg gave $500 to Donald Trump in May 2016.

Critics say the man appears to have surfaced in a video of another heated political moment, a protest last year against Muslim activist Linda Sarsour where ralliers held signs and icons connected to the alt-right, the far-right movement associated with racism, sexism and anti-Semitism. He is heard cursing at the person taking the video and chanting, “Milo,” for right-wing media personality Milo Yiannopoulos.

Amy B Wang contributed reporting.

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All Comments 211

snoopy 26

10 seconds ago

I bet when he visits foreign countries he expects them to speak English to him. Have you ever heard of a French waiter getting fired for speaking English to a customer?

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ljboccecalou

57 seconds ago

I saw the video. It was pretty disgusting but unlike that dimwit in California who threatened his Muslim target, this nebbish did not appear to cross any legal boundaries.
That does not make either his world view or his behavior in expressing it any better.
Aaron Schlossberg can dish it out, it seems, but can he take it?

It didn’t take much detective spadework to uncover this jerk’s name and the office space he’s renting, so I’m wondering if someone can dig up other pertinent information:
His home address, telephone numbers, Facebook, Twitter and other social accounts, favorite hangouts, family (if any), and anything else that can pin him down. This dude needs a SERIOUS lesson on what it feels like to be shamed, harassed, hounded and abused the way he did to those harmless Latinos. And he needs to feel those slings and arrows for a looong time; those who oppose what Mr. S. stands for should not let up.

I don’t think the law can prosecute him for his xenophobic rant but the public can, sure as God, make his life miserable for it.
And for those of you who are uncomfortable with on-line vigilantism, consider it’s a whole lot better than the real thing.

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stu ya gotz

1 minute ago

For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Pure and simple.

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antonio navarro diaz

1 minute ago

First of all, the United States historically has had several unofficial languages spoken here: Japanese, Chinese, French, Polish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Dutch, Korean, Filipino, Lao, and Vietnamese. It’s impossible to stop immigrants, whether legal or not, from speaking their mother tongue. Second, its unconstitutional to demand Americans to speak English. Their mother tongue WOULD be protected speech under the First Amendment, and any civilian trying to force another civilian to speak any English would be subject to assault charges.

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dbard7

2 minutes ago

Of course, the First Amendment gives citizens the right to spout whatever rhetoric they please.

It does not immunize them for the social backlash of being an ignorant racist.

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xwordplayer

just now

Republicans often forget that.

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Ground Control

2 minutes ago

People with such overtly expressed vehement racist views should not be officers of the court. Mr. Schlossberg by his actions clearly is incapable of not only controlling himself but of critical judgment as well. How can he possibly mete out Justice?

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hosquer smithy

3 minutes ago

I wonder who he voted for.

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demarche

3 minutes ago

It’s clearly time for some Schoolhouse Rock:

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ilikeeephuspitches

4 minutes ago

Maybe he and the Kent State gun girl can go off into the sunset together.

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gawd darn it

4 minutes ago

(Edited)

My mother and half her siblings were born in Hoboken, the other half born in Sicily… they spoke Italian around the family and neighbors.

I only speak English

My wife is from So America – speaks 4 languages – she’s an English and Spanish teacher here in the USA.

Lucky this pri*ck didn’t square off on me (or mine) like that.

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