Activists say more than 1,000 Dallas-area businesses took part in the “Day Without Immigrants” protest Thursday to highlight how immigrants feel they are being targeted right now by political and public sentiment.
But they know, and Thursday incidents proved, that rhetoric is not going to change overnight.
Supermercado El Rancho was one of the largest businesses participating in the protest, choosing to close all of its Dallas-area grocery stores for the day. Carlos Quintanilla with Aciion America stood in front of the W. Jefferson Blvd. location to explain why.
"Right now the immigrant community is in fear. It's intimidated. They're afraid to take their children to school,” Quintanilla said. "I think the most important message that El Rancho is sending to our community is that we have your back. If anything it's served its purpose by telling our community you're not alone."
However, most of the other business in the same Plaza De Oro shopping center, immigrant-owned and otherwise, chose to stay open.
In Bishop Arts, Oddfellows restaurant stayed open, but with five of its employees missing. They stayed home to take part in the day of protest. And restaurant management supported their choice.
"You know, I'm proud of them. It's a brave thing to do. And we're just doing our best to be supportive,” said manager Nick Spring who admits that other employees picked up the extra work.
"Just to kind of give everyone a view of what would happen if they weren't here,” said chef Anastacia Quinones. "I see both sides of the story. My parents being immigrants and traveling here from Mexico and becoming citizens and myself living here and running a business. So I see both sides of the story for sure."
But not everyone sees both sides, the popular Taco Stop on Irving Boulevard for example. Owner Emilia Flores has only two employees – employees who chose to stay home to take part in the “Day Without Immigrants” protest.
Flores tried to operate the morning breakfast orders on her own this morning but decided she couldn’t cook and run the cash register at the same time. Instead she chose to close posting a sign on her front door explaining her reasoning, deciding to honor her employees protest too.
"I disagree with the hate rhetoric about all immigrants. And this is my stand on that."
She received mostly positive support from loyal customers on social media and from most customers she met in person while closing for the day. But one irate customer accused her of supporting illegal immigration and vowed he would never come back.
"I'm not supporting illegals. I told you that from the start. I’m sorry you think that,” the trained psychologist said trying to convince the customer she was merely supporting her employees’ choice.
Flores’ Taco Stop is the same business still offering free coats on a rack outside the restaurant to anyone who needs them to get through the rest of a north Texas winter.
"I go back to compassion and kindness. I don't see the need to be persecuting. It bothers me,” she said.
Also Thursday, LULAC estimated that as many as 50% of Hispanic children in DISD did not go to school. And a couple hundred students at mostly Hispanic Dallas Molina High school, staged a walkout Thursday afternoon, holding a brief rally in the school parking lot. Similar protests took place at schools across the country.