(NEW YORK TIMES) LEXINGTON, S.C. — The weekday lunch rush arrives as a small ritual of suburban pleasure at the San Jose Mexican Restaurant, just across from the tanning salon and the strip-mall multiplex. A mostly white clientele pulls into a parking lot, past a sign with a cartoon peasant tugging on an obstinate donkey. Inside, a mostly Latino work force serves Americanized versions of Mexican classics as a sound system plays syrupy Spanish ballads.
The restaurant chain — local, family-owned and, with more than a dozen locations, as abundant here as any national brand — has been around central South Carolina since the days when Tex-Mex was considered exotic.
Today, it is at the center of an illegal immigration and bribery scandal that has resulted in the indictment of the state’s longest-serving sheriff, who has showcased the deportations of hundreds of people not authorized to be in the country.
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