Donald Trump

We Have to Take a Stand: Dozens of Tri-State Businesses Close Doors Thursday for ‘Day Without Immigrants' Protest

Roughly 12 million people are employed in the restaurant industry, and immigrants make up the majority - up to 70 percent in places like New York and Chicago, according to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

What to Know

  • Immigrants are being asked to miss work and class and not shop on Thursday to raise national awareness of their impact on community
  • Many restaurants posted plans about their closures on social media
  • Bodega owners staged a similar demonstration last month, with thousands of owners shutting down en masse at noon on Feb. 2

Immigrants in the tri-state and across the nation stayed home from work and school Thursday to demonstrate how important they are to America's economy and way of life, and many businesses closed in solidarity.

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Called A Day Without Immigrants, the protest culminated in demonstrations outside Manhattan's federal immigration court.

Scottie Lopez and his family, who came to the country undocumented and worked toward citizenship, own three Cafe Con Pon bakeries on Staten Island. All are closing Thursday; it's the first time in the company's 10-year history that the bakeries will shut their doors on an otherwise normal business day.

"Through this boycott we hope to demonstrate what a day without all of our immigrant brothers and sisters working and spending to contribute to our economy would look like," the family wrote in a Facebook post. 

Lopez later told NBC 4 New York, "I love America with all of my heart and it pains me that people dislike us just for where we come from."

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The boycott was aimed squarely at President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on immigration, legal and illegal, by such means as a wall at the Mexican border. Organizers said they expected thousands to participate or otherwise show their support.

The day's activities also included rallies: Protesters were out in Hunts Point in the Bronx before dawn Thursday morning. The neighborhood is home to one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, and the protesters were believed to be workers. 

Richard Bryan
Protesters were already out in Hunts Point early Thursday morning.

Organizers appealed to immigrants from all walks of life to take part, but the effects were felt most strongly in the restaurant industry, which has long been a first step up the economic ladder for newcomers to America with its many jobs for cooks, dishwashers and servers.

In New York City, the Blue Ribbon restaurant group closed seven of its restaurants, and their 500 employees stayed home, according to Eater. Among them are Blue Ribbon Brasserie, Blue Ribbon Brooklyn, and Blue Ribbon Sushi. 

Restaurants like Dziupla in Williamsburg posted announcements to their customers on Instagram. 

Other restaurants, including La Contenta on the Lower East Side, Land Thai Kitchen on the Upper West Side, and Pure Thai Cookhouse in Hell's Kitchen notified their customers of plans to close in support of their workers.

Other eateries, like Eataly in Flatiron and Fowler & Wells in Lower Manhattan, will remain open but anticipate a limited menu due to workers who will be protesting. 

Many patrons of the temporarily shuttered businesses took to Twitter to express support for the protest. One man said he was home with his son because the boy's daycare was closed for the day. Another said he had never been happier to have his lunch plans foiled. 

Susan MacLaury, turned away outside a Venezuelan restaurant in Chelsea by a sign in the window that said, "Sorry, we love America but Government doesn't love us," said she appreciated the message. 

"I'm sorry I'm not gonna get to eat here today but it's an important message to send," she said. "We are a country of immigrants." 

Other customers expressed concern the protest would only serve to hurt the businesses. They said they hoped owners would write to Congress and take action by other means as well. 

"A thousand letters, a thousand petitions, would mean a lot more than this," said Tom Wortmann of Port Richmond. "And they wouldn't be hurting themselves." 

But business owners say the locks say everything they can't: without immigrants, American neighborhoods would look like ghost towns. 

"If we don't take advantage and protect everybody as a group, as a whole, the city will fall," said Erick Leon of Port Richmond. 

Some other restaurants that have announced plans to close Thursday include: 

Families from overseas who now call America home are reacting to the new orders, and sharing the personal struggles they face, decades after settling here. Ida Siegal has the story of Ali Dogan’s family, who’s now running a restaurant in the city.

In New Jersey, restaurants, bodegas and cab companies were expected to take part. Wilda Diaz, mayor of Perth Amboy, wrote in a Facebook post that residents should have alternate means of transit to work or school. 

Bodega owners in New York City staged a similar demonstration last month, with thousands of owners shutting down en masse at noon on Feb. 2 and then rallying at Brooklyn Borough Hall that evening. They said they wanted to show how much they're part of the fabric of the Big Apple. Some told of how their families were stranded overseas as a result of Trump's travel ban. 

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Since the end of 2007, the number of foreign-born workers employed in the U.S. has climbed by nearly 3.1 million to 25.9 million; they account for 56 percent of the increase in U.S. employment over that period, according to the Labor Department.

The foreign-born - who include American citizens, green-card holders and those working without legal authorization - tend to be younger and to take jobs in fields that have been growing fastest, including restaurants, hotels and stores.

Roughly 12 million people are employed in the restaurant industry, and immigrants make up the majority - up to 70 percent in places like New York and Chicago, according to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which works to improve working conditions. An estimated 1.3 million in the industry are immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, the group said.

Trump said Thursday he'll soon introduce a new travel ban that meets the requirements imposed by a judge, but he also acknowledged he's still undecided about how to handle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- that is, illegal immigrants who are children. 

Immigrants across the nation are making their absences known by skipping work and school. It’s all part of “A Day Without Immigrants.” Andrew Siff reports.

"You have these absolutely incredible kids who were brought here, and that's why it's so tough," he said. "We are going to deal with it, with heart." 

The immigration fight coincided with a rare public appearance from Hillary Clinton, who helped the U.S. Postal Service unveil new stamps at Grand Central Terminal honoring Oscar de la Renta. The famed fashion designer is originally from the Dominican Republic.

"Let there be many more immigrants with love of America that Oscar de la Renta exemplified every day," said Clinton. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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