Businesses that employ and serve Hispanic people across the Triangle plan to close Thursday as part of “A Day Without Immigrants,” a response to recent deportations and raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A manager at Compare Foods said the Hispanic grocery chain will close all its stores in North Carolina. In the greater Triangle, Compare has three stores in Durham as well as stores in Apex, Clayton, Henderson and Smithfield.
“We are trying to support the Latino community,” said Ernesto Padilla, general manager at the Avondale Drive and Miami Boulevard locations in Durham. “Our store is part of the Latino community, and we are also part of the immigrant community.”
“A Day Without Immigrants” calls for Hispanics and their supporters to boycott stores, avoid restaurants and not send their children to schools on Thursday. A rally is also planned for Moore Square in downtown Raleigh at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Que Pasa.
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Centro, a Mexican restaurant in downtown Raleigh, plans to be closed for the day, according to the manager Stephanie Pruitt.
El Pancito in Raleigh posted on its Facebook page that the bakery would close Thursday “to support the protest of the deportations and families affected by the raids.” By 5 p.m. Wednesday the post had been shared nearly 300 times and had more than 450 reactions.
Silvia Martinez, who owns and operates the El Pancito locations on New Bern Avenue and on North Market Drive in Raleigh, said most of her customers and employees are immigrants, both legal and illegal.
“It worries me that if things keep going the way they are, soon I’ll lose all my customers and have to close my stores,” she said. “I think we all need to come together and keep them here.”
Martinez said her family and employees will join her at the Raleigh rally.
The demonstration isn’t just about Hispanic immigrants, though, Martinez said.
“It’s about immigrants from all over the world,” she said. “People are just being sent back to their country and they don’t have a safe place to go. That makes me sad that they just get sent back without a chance to be safe.”
On Monday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the ICE actions – which led to 680 arrests in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City areas – are similar to those the agency has conducted for years.
“These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges,” Kelly said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the town of Carrboro issued a news release stating that the Carrboro Police Department does not check immigration status.
“We would like to assure everyone that one’s immigration status has never been a concern or priority to the Carrboro Police. We are here to serve all members of our community,” Police Chief Walter Horton said.
Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue and Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood previously have said they do not make immigration status a priority for their officers.
All three agencies work with El Centro Hispano in Carrboro to organize community outreach programs, including the Faith ID initiative, which provides immigrants and citizens with an identification card that shows they are a community member. The card isn’t a government-issued ID card or a driver’s license.
An El Centro official said the organization’s Carrboro and Durham offices will be closed Thursday in solidarity with striking workers.
Several Chapel Hill and Carrboro businesses that plan to be open Thursday said they did not know if employees would be taking Thursday off.
Chuy Bravo, co-owner of Fiesta Grill, west of Carrboro, said he told his workers to do what they feel is right but that he won’t be able to pay them for the time off.
“I support them and everything, but business is business. Every penny counts, and we have bills to pay and rent to pay. We’re just going to have to manage it ourselves without employees,” he said.