'Day Without Immigrants' protests being held across US

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Immigrants across the Tri-State Area are taking part in a nationwide protest Thursday against recent policies put in place by the Trump administration.

Organizers for "A Day Without Immigrants" urged immigrants across the U.S. to miss work, skip class and not shop to show the country just how important they are to America's economy.

They say the protests are in response to President Donald Trump's pledges to increase deportation, build a wall along the U.S. and Mexican border, and his proposed but legally stalled travel ban.

In New Jersey, the mayor of Perth Amboy put out a notice warning residents that many local businesses would be closed in participation of the protest.

People marched in the city in support of the protest. Taxi companies did not dispatch their cabs, and many businesses closed for the day, including hair and nail salons, cellphone stores, travel agencies, lunch counters and restaurants.

"These are our friends, our neighbors. You can't kick them out because you're afraid. These are good people," said business owner Abe Rodriguez.

For the immigrant cause, the business owners chose to take money out of their own pockets, a telling move in a place like Perth Amboy that is 80 percent Latino with a huge immigrant population.

"Executive orders could cripple the economy of the small mom and pops of our community," said Perth Amboy Mayor Wilma Diaz. "So today, please stand by many of the families that live in fear."

In New York, a rally against the immigrant ban was held in Battery Park in the morning, followed by one organized by "Make the Road New York" outside the Federal Building in Manhattan in the evening.

RELATED: Restaurants, businesses in NYC area shut down for protest

The protest even reached into the U.S. Capitol, where a Senate coffee shop was among the eateries that were closed as employees did not show up at work.

Marcela Ardaya-Vargas, who is from Bolivia and now lives in Falls Church, Virginia, pulled her son out of school to take him to a Day Without Immigrants march in Washington.

"When he asked why he wasn't going to school, I told him because today he was going to learn about immigration," she said, adding: "Our job as citizens is to unite with our brothers and sisters."

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. Expensive restaurants and fast-food joints alike closed across the U.S.

On Ninth Street in South Philadelphia's Italian Market, it was so quiet in the morning that Rani Vasudeva thought it might be Monday, when many of the businesses on the normally bustling stretch are closed.

Produce stands and other stalls along "Calle Nueve" - as 9th Street is more commonly known for its abundance of Mexican-owned businesses - stood empty, leaving customers to look elsewhere for fresh meat, bread, fruits and vegetables.

"It's actually very sad," said Vasudeva, a 38-year-old professor at Temple University. "You realize the impact the immigrant community has. We need each other for our daily lives."

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 Associated Press contributed to this report.
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