Around the country, immigrants stayed home from work Thursday as part of a “Day without Immigrants” protest.
The movement began on social media as an effort to show what life would be like without immigrants in this country in response to more aggressive tactics from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Some immigrant-owned businesses on the Suncoast also shut their doors in solidarity with the movement. Los Laureles Supermarket in Bradenton sat empty Thursday, a rare sight around lunchtime on a workday.
Owner Juan Esquivel says it was his customers who asked him to do so.
“It really makes me think twice and really appreciate the great gift that I have received myself being an immigrant and being able to accomplish the things that I have done myself,” says Esquivel.
Some of those customers were surprised by the locked door and posted statement, but remained supportive.
“I hope that it will make an impact to make the people realize that the union is what makes the force,” says Hector Davila, who immigrated to the US from mexico 33 years ago.
Down the road, Auto Accessories Alicia has served Bradenton for over 20 years, but it sat deserted Thursday at the will of the immigrant family who runs it.
“Those 20 years would not be possible without the help of the hispanic community as well as the American community,” says Rosalia Hernandez, the shops logistics manager and daughter of owner Alicia Rivas.
“What we are trying to do is help our people,” adds Rosalia’s step-father Daniel Rivas
According to the US Census Bureau, more than 100,000 immigrants reside in Manatee and Sarasota Counties.
Hernandez has noticed a decline in customers since Donald Trump took office. She says many are afraid to leave their homes for fear of deportation.
“We’re showing solidarity and support for anyone who is afraid or unsure of their future under this new presidency of Donald Trump,” says Hernandez.
The ones staying home are misinterpreting the president’s goals, says Republican State Committeeman Christian Ziegler.
“Donald Trump has been pretty clear on his policies and what he’s doing. It’s America first,” says Ziegler. “It’s not anti-immigration, it’s anti-illegal-immigration, these are lawbreakers.”
Guy Francois helps keep track of migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Manatee County with Career Source Suncoast. He’s noticed volunteers dropping from over 100 laborers per day to around 40 in December.
Even less since Donald Trump took over in January.
“Without them, especially in agiculture, it would collapse,” says Francois “They are the bread and butter of the economy in Agriculture.”