National ‘Day Without Immigrants’ hits Greeley businesses, schools | MyWindsorNow.com

National ‘Day Without Immigrants’ hits Greeley businesses, schools

Trevor Reid
treid@greeleytribune.com

With social media posts calling for a national boycott and strike for immigrants on Thursday, the effects in Greeley were mixed.

The posts called for "A Day Without Immigrants," encouraging immigrants and supporters to refrain from working, buying anything or even taking their children to school to demonstrate their importance to the nation's economy, and many businesses closed in solidarity, in a nationwide protest. The boycott was aimed squarely at President Donald Trump's efforts to step up deportations, build a wall at the Mexican border and close the nation's doors to many travelers.

At a White House news conference held as the lunch-hour protests unfolded, Trump touted his border security measures and immigration arrests of hundreds of people in the past week, saying, "We are saving lives every single day." A University of Northern Colorado freshman took part in the protest in Greeley, skipping both work and classes. The student, who asked not to be named for fear of harassment, said he wasn't sure if the protest was real at first.

"Then I started seeing that people were actually getting together and going forward with this thing," he said.

He called into work Thursday to explain his absence.

"I told them it was not anything against them, but a way to show this community, this state, this country, that there is something going on," he explained. "There is something that's going to happen. It's going to go on not just today, but hopefully it will extend."

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The student said his supervisor was understanding, having been aware of his immigrant identity.

"I was born in Mexico. My parents brought me here when I was 3 years old. It was my father, my mother, my older brother and me," the student said. "My entire family is immigrants."

University students weren't the only ones to take part in the protest. Theresa Myers, director of communications for Greeley-Evans School District 6, said there was a noticeable drop in attendance Thursday.

"Right now we're looking like some of our schools are down as much as 10 percent from our normal Thursday," she said.

Districtwide, attendance was at 83 percent, down from 93 percent a day earlier.

Though a local flu outbreak makes it hard to be certain of the cause, Myers said the schools with particularly low attendance are mostly schools with high immigrant populations.

Fast food restaurant chain La Changada, 2001 9th Ave., posted to its Facebook page Wednesday about its decision to shut down for the day.

"In Support of 'A Day Without Immigrants' we will be closed this Thursday! Thank you for your preference!" the post reads.

Grocery store La Tarahumara, at 1101 8th Ave., surprised some of its hopeful customers as it shut its doors for the day. Similarly, many drove off in confusion after finding the food mart Tortilleria Los Comales, 1331 9th St., closed during normal business hours. At Mexican restaurant El Mero Mero, 1002 25th Ave., the owner had to call in her sister for help.

"We have six workers in total and only two showed up," said the owner's sister, Maria Meza. "It's been our slowest day in like four or five years."

At the Hampton Inn, 2350 29th St., Assistant General Manager Stephanie Toubaux said they didn't feel any effects of the protest.

"We have a very loyal staff, and they're all here today," she said Thursday morning.

Greeley Chamber of Commerce Director Sarah MacQuiddy said she didn't hear much about the protest in Greeley.

"If there's a positive thing to say, I really think in our community here in Greeley, we have opened our arms; we've embraced our immigrant population. And I see it a little differently in our community," she said. "We've got solid business owners opening businesses downtown."

City councilwoman Rochelle Galindo, who represents northeast Greeley, which has a high population of immigrant families, said she saw the protest's impact firsthand.

"I took a tour of Bella Romero (Elementary School) this morning, and it was very noticeable that there were a lot of absent students," she said. "I have heard from community leaders that families have been planning to partake (in the protest)."

Galindo sees two sides to the argument that get articulated: there are people who complain that schools are flooded with immigrants, so some believe public education would run better without immigrants. On the other hand, immigrant workers provide an important part of the labor force.

"You also have to take in the human factor," she said. "These are families. These are people's lives that you're coming into, and you're ripping them apart."

— Associated Press contributed to this report.

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