Nationwide 'Day Without Immigrants' shuts down businesses

Posted at 8:25 PM, Feb 16, 2017
(CNN) -- How would the United States deal without immigrants for a day?
Cities across the country got a taste of that Thursday as businesses shut down and immigrants refused to spend money on "A Day Without Immigrants."
It's an effort to show the Trump administration how much immigrants contribute to the country's economy as the President continues his tough stances on immigration.
And while many immigrants and business owners refused to work in an act of solidarity, others marked the event in more unorthodox ways. Here are some of their stories:
Restaurant workers do 'double the work' in advance
Matt Carr, owner of the Little Red Fox restaurant in Washington, D.C., had no problem letting his immigrant employees strike, even though they're vital to his business.
"We have three prep cooks on strike today for 'A Day Without Immigrants.' They are all parents worried about their families and futures," Carr said.
But before those workers went on strike, they made sure the business was taken care of.
"Dear Matt, kale salad is ready," the protesters wrote on a note for their boss. "Fruit salad just needs blueberries + mint. Oranges are cut. Thank you, The ladies of the kitchen."
Carr said he appreciates the dedication of his employees.
"We're a very small business, and without them we would not be able to open today," he said. "They not only gave me a heads-up about the strike, but did double the work yesterday so we would be in good shape today."
Carr said he's "holding down the fort" by also washing dishes and preparing food. He said his business would fall apart without his immigrant employees, who come from Venezuela and Guatemala.
"Immigrants are the backbone of this country and the heart and soul of the service industry," he said. "Without them, our small businesses would crumble. They are also part of our family here at Little Red Fox, and I, too, am worried about their future under this administration."
Texas mom: 'This is how we're going to make an impact'
Sanjuana Gonzales' family moved from Mexico to Texas in 1988 to work as migrant farm workers. They became legal permanent residents, and Gonzales is now a dual citizen.
But her life has taken a laborious road toward the American dream.
When Gonzales was 18, her hands were constantly damaged from working in the fields. At the same time, she was putting herself through community college.
"In college, I was hiding my hands because I didn't want other people to know that in my other life, I was a farm worker," Gonzales said.
She eventually earned a master's degree in health care administration and now works for the Travis County government, managing contracts for social service programs.
But she didn't work Thursday, in support of the immigrant strike.
"It's a very controversial issue right now, even between my own co-workers and friends," Gonzales said. "Some of us are Democrats, some of us are Republicans. But it's an issue we're talking about."
Gonzales, who used a vacation day for the strike, said she's also not spending any money on Thursday.
"I told my daughter we're not buying anything, and we're not eating out," she said. "This is how we're going to make an impact. ... So (the government) can acknowledge what we contribute to the economy, to the culture."
Nervous employee asks bosses to join in
As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Eunice Arcos wanted to join the strike Thursday. So the night before, Arcos said, she nervously texted her bosses at Makeup On The Go Cosmetics in Dallas, asking whether they would join her in solidarity.
They granted her wish.
"We will be closed tomorrow!" her bosses responded.
The college student broadcast the support from her employer on Twitter.
"My heart is so happy!" Arcos tweeted.
She told CNN her parents came from Mexico City 35 years ago, and that her entire family was on strike.
"My parents were once immigrants, so it was really important to be part of this boycott," she said.
Customer: Nothing can replace immigrants
Every Tuesday and Thursday for the past five years, Hiba Hamwi picks up breakfast at Pan American Bakery in Roslynn, Virginia. The full-time student said the cheese empanadas make her 8 a.m. class "so much less dreadful."
But this Thursday morning, a sign at the bakery read, "Thursday is going to be closed."
Hamwi said the strike made her think about the importance of immigrants in her life.
"Hispanic food is my all-time favorite, and not being able to have it is just tragic," she said. "I don't think anything could replace (immigrants) and how great different cultures are."
D.C. restaurant supports boycott -- by staying open
Just over a mile from the White House, the upscale restaurant Unum supported the boycott by keeping its doors open.
"Unum strongly support 'day without immigrants' & after discussing with our staff we will be OPEN," the restaurant's Instagram page said.
"We feel our customers should gain firsthand knowledge and realize how important, hard working and dedicated our immigrant staff work every day and what it is like without them. E Pluribus Unum -- From Many, One."
New York: Immigrant business owners unite with immigrant employees
Manhattan's Dough doughnut shop shut down not just because the immigrant employees went on strike, but because the business owners are immigrants, too.
"Please note that we will be closed on Thursday February 16th in support of our immigrant staff's desire & right to protest and be part of "A day without immigrant strike," the owners posted on a sign.
"As immigrant business owners, we proudly stand in solidarity."
Customer Z. Hernandez visits Dough several times a week and was surprised by the sign. But she said she supports the owners' decision.
"It made me proud to support a business that is standing up for such an important cause," she said.
Restaurants could be devastated without immigrants
While a wide array of businesses feel the impact of losing immigrant workers for a day, the restaurant industry would be crippled without them.
According to the National Restaurant Association, 14.4 million people work in the restaurant industry, and 23% of them are foreign-born.
As for undocumented workers, an analysis by Pew Research found about 1.1 million of the restaurant industry's workers were undocumented in 2014. That makes restaurants second only to construction when it comes to relying on undocumented workers.
One immigrant: Immigration must be better managed
Sean Linnane, 48, who said he's a security consultant who lives near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, tweeted that he is an immigrant who went to work on Thursday.
Linnane, who said he's an American citizen who was born in Australia and raised in Southeast Asia, said he understands Thursday's actions were part of a larger political statement. He said he has "no problem with all the people coming across the southern border" but believes immigrants should be more stringently vetted at the border.
"It's got to be managed," Linnane said of immigration.
Linnane said he doesn't personally like President Donald Trump but believes the President's proposed travel ban that bars citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days is "good logic."
Trump has pledged to unveil a new immigration executive order next week that will be tailored to a recent federal court decision halting his travel ban.
CNN's Gisela Crespo, Sarah Jorgensen, Octavio Blanco, Mayra Cuevas and Vanessa Yurkevich contributed to this report. Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of foreign born and native born workers in the food services industry.
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