As Hispanic businesses across the Triangle closed their doors Thursday in solidarity with the national “A Day Without Immigrants” movement, more than 100 people gathered in front of the Compare Foods on Avondale Drive to show their support.
“A Day Without Immigrants” calls for Hispanics and their supporters to boycott stores, avoid restaurants and not send their children to schools on Thursday. The movement has gained momentum in response to a recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions.
Compare Foods, a Latino grocery chain, was one of the largest businesses to close its doors for “A Day Without Immigrants,” making it the epicenter of the movement’s demonstrations in Durham. All three Compare Foods in Durham were closed on Thursday.
Alerta Migratoria N.C., a Durham-based organization that helps immigrants gain asylum in the U.S., was the main organizer of the Durham demonstration.
Ivan Almonte, who has lived in the U.S. for 19 years, led the demonstration. He said the Hispanic community in Durham was living in fear of possible checkpoints on the road, as many don’t have driver licenses.
“We don’t want to see our families torn apart because of deportation,” he said. “ICE and the police are working together, and a lot of our members have been arrested. … It’s just crazy.”
ICE has arrested some 200 people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia during the past few weeks, according to the Associated Press. 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.
Many of the signs at the demonstration obliquely referenced President Donald Trump, specifically the wall he has promised to build between the U.S. and Mexico. But opinion was divided on the president’s role in spurring the “A Day Without Immigrants” movement.
“For us, honestly, nothing has changed (since Trump’s inauguration),” Almonte said. “What’s the difference? (President Barack) Obama deported 2.5 million, and basically he has passed the deportation machine to Donald Trump.
“Personally, I would say that Trump has been sincere when he said, ‘I will deport you.’ I don’t like that, but at least he is being honest – with Obama, we waited eight years for immigration reform.”
Jose Rico of Raleigh said the language Trump has used to describe the Latino immigrants was bringing the entire community together.
“I think the community is under attack,” said Rico. “I believe members of his administration are racist.”
Rico is in the U.S. as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program authorized by President Obama in 2012 that protects certain immigrant youth that were brought to the U.S. at a young age.
Rico said he thinks the Hispanic community in the Triangle has been complacent in the past, but that the increasing reports of checkpoints and arrests, as well as the language of President Trump, has been a catalyst for the community’s demonstrations.
“Seeing my community coming together like this, and seeing us close big stores like Compare Foods, that is empowering.”