An immigrant-run D.C. cafe is offering free coffee to Haitians, Salvadorans and Africans a day after President Trump wondered why the United States must accept immigrants from “shithole countries.”
Also welcome to a free cup of joe: Norwegians, for whom the president expressed affinity.
“Immigrants are coming here and adding to the diversity that makes America what it is,” said Gjergj Dollani, a 40-year-old Albanian immigrant and owner of Cafe Chocolat, which opened four months ago on the 1400 block of H Street NW. “I believe in America.”
Dollani said he came to the United States in 1994 as part of the green-card lottery program when Albania was struggling after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He got an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and became a chocolatier, living in France for a year to learn the business.
“My parents wanted a better life and took the risk of crossing the pond,” he said. “This is our home now. I’ve spent more of my life here than back in Albania.”
Pointing out that immigrants create jobs, Dollani offered Exhibit A: His employee, Marco Santos, who said he was a 23-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient from Honduras whose father brought him to the country when he was 5. (The Trump administration wants to end DACA, insisting that Congress must find a solution. A federal court issued an injunction preventing the administration from rescinding the work permits of those known as “dreamers.”)
“My father brought me here to have the best chance I could,” Santos said. “But there’s the possibility of going back to a country I don’t know.” He added: “We don’t leech off the system.”
At least one Haitian had taken up Cafe Chocolat on its offer, Dollani said.
Dollani also said that, just days ago, the store featured Askanya chocolate, which bills itself as “Haiti’s first and only premier bean-to-bar chocolate company.”
“They’re working really hard to build the brand up in that country,” he said. “It’s a weird coincidence.”