Businesses shut their doors, students skipped class and thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in cities across the United States on Thursday to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Activists called it “A Day Without Immigrants” to highlight the importance of the foreign-born, who account for 13 percent of the US population, or more than 40 million naturalized American citizens.
Trump campaigned against the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, playing on fears of violent crime while promising to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and stop potential terrorists from entering the country.
While the number of participants in Thursday’s protests could not be determined, many sympathetic business owners closed shop and working-class immigrants forwent pay for the day.
“I told my English teacher that I wasn’t going to school, and she said she understood,” said Rosa Castro, a 13-year-old U.S. citizen in Detroit, who marched with her 26-year-old sister, one of several undocumented family members whose future she is concerned about.
Since taking office last month, the Republican president has signed an executive order temporarily banning entry to the United States by travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and all refugees. That order was put on hold by federal courts.
Immigrant rights groups have also expressed alarm after federal raids last week rounded up more than 680 people suspected of being in the country illegally.
In San Diego’s Logan Heights neighborhood, a 44-year-old undocumented business owner who identified herself only as Lucia for fear of deportation told Reuters she closed her nutrition shop for the day, costing her US$200.
“Our community is frightened and cannot speak out,” she said. “Things are very bad for us with the new president.”
Advocates have called attention to cases such as the one in El Paso, Texas, where federal agents arrested a transgender woman as she left a courthouse where she was seeking a protective order for domestic violence.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe wrote Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to express concern over immigration enforcement in his state, citing an NBC Washington report that agents arrested people outside a church that operates as a shelter from the cold.
Sympathy marches and rallies were held in cities including Raleigh, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas. Thousands joined demonstrations in Chicago and Detroit.
In the Los Angeles Fashion District — comprising some 4,000 apparel outlets, showrooms and manufacturers covering about 100 blocks of downtown — about half the shops in the area’s retail core were closed, along with about 40 percent of one of the large flower markets in the area, said district spokeswoman Ariana Gomez.
A Southern California grocery chain, Northgate Gonzalez Markets, said it gave employees at 41 stores and the corporate headquarters permission to use paid personal time off to participate.
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