'Day Without Immigrants' protest: Latest updates

A rally in support of "A Day Without Immigrants" was held Thursday at the Municipal Services Building on Thomas Paine Plaza in front of the "Government of the People" statue. There, a small group of immigrants stood holding American flags as Maria Serma, spokesperson for the group, spoke on the dignity of immigrant workers and their importance to the workforce in the U.S.

Restaurants, stores and other businesses in Philadelphia and some cities around the nation are closing for a "Day Without Immigrants" protest. The impact so far appears to be minimal, as most businesses, even in industries that rely heavily on immigrants, have remained open. Here's what you need to know about the protest; follow along throughout the day for updates.

What's happening and why

Organizers of the one-day strike taking place Thursday are urging businesses owned or staffed by immigrants to shut down for the day. They want to demonstrate what would happen if the United States were to lose scores of foreign-born residents by cracking down on undocumented immigrants. The protests are happening in response to last weekend's high-profile immigration-enforcement raids and President Trump's policies and pledges, including a border wall and a temporary ban on refugees and certain immigrants.

Restaurants

In Philadelphia and elsewhere, eateries are at the center of the protest, as immigrants play essential roles in the restaurant industry as chefs, cooks servers and dishwashers. Some restaurants around the region are closing for the day in support of foreign-born staffers. Others plan to pay employees whether they show up to work or not. Some plan to serve drinks but not food, saying they can't open their kitchens without immigrants.

Participating restaurants have placed signs about the protest on their doors.

In Atlantic City, Rufino Carreon decided to close his El Patron Restaurant and Bar on Atlantic Avenue despite the economic loss.

"For one day to close, it costs," he said. But he said it was important to show support.

"I have my family too," he says. "I pray for my family, the way he's doing everything," he said, referring to Trump.

Many restaurants, however, remain open and Center City eateries were bustling with customers as usual around lunchtime. By about noon, a relatively limited number of restaurants appeared to be taking part in the protest.

Other businesses

Businesses outside the restaurant industry are also impacted by the protest.

At Pietro Mushrooms in Kennett Square, a quarter of the staff, 15 people, did not come to work Thursday, said Chris Alonzo, the president and owner. Some farms in Kennett Square are missing as many as 80 percent of their workers, said Alonzo, a third-generation mushroom farmer who also leads the Chester County Agricultural Development Council.

"Our employees are trying to let people know that there’s a need for their work here," he said. "We support that, although it’s definitely a burden on us."

He noted that "there’s a need for immigrants in this country" and stressed the need for both security and reform.

"I think the fear out there of border security is much greater than it needs to be," Alonzo said. "But more importantly, if we don’t have immigration reform at the same time, it’s going to be a huge detriment to our food security." 

In Atlantic City, about 15 to 20 establishments, including restaurants, beauty shops and other stores, are closed. 

Participating businesses were owned by immigrants from Mexico, Peru and El Salvador, said Nefaki Moreno of Organizacion Azteca. "Basically today is the Spanish day, the community Spanish."

Many stores in Norristown, an area in which many shops are owned by immigrants, are also shut down for the day.

But not all industries heavily staffed by immigrants were reporting an impact from the protest. Multiple South Jersey landscapers said their operations Thursday were not impacted. 

Philadelphia Rally

The movement's primary action for is to close stores and restaurants, but in Philadelphia, a small group of demonstrators gathered near City Hall for a rally highlighting immigrants' contributions to the local economy.

Nation

Similar large-scale protests to show solidarity with immigrants are taking place in other cities, including Washington, D.C., Austin, Boston and Chicago, as well as smaller communities like those on the Jersey Shore

The movement appears particularly strong among the restaurant scene in Washington. Among the businesses affected by a lack of staff there: The steakhouse in the lobby of Trump's own hotel. BLT Prime is operating with limited reservations and a limited menu, according to the Washingtonian.

Here's a glance at stories from around the country:

Baltimore restaurants close Thursday to support A Day Without Immigrants

Protesters to gather outside Ausitin City Hall for Day Without Immigrants rally

Rick Bayless, other Chicago businesses to close some locations Thursday to support immigrants

Many Twin Cities businesses closing Thursday for 'Day Without Immigrants' protest

Reaction

Early reaction has included both praise for the closed businesses and denunciations of illegal immigration. Most local politicians have been silent thus far on the issue, though at least one Philadelphia councilwoman has posted support for the effort on social media.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, tweeted messages about the protest and value of immigrants in both English and Spanish.

What could be next

Some activists are calling for a women's general strike on March 8, calling the demonstration "A Day Without A Woman." Early responses to the proposed strike have been mixed, with some questioning how many women would participate. 

Staff writers Michaelle Bond, Michael Boren, Julie Shaw, Amy S. Rosenberg and Mari A. Schaefer contributed to this report.

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