Published Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 | 1:43 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 | 9 p.m.
Las Vegas resident Marisela Torres was surprised her car was one of just three in the normally packed parking lot Thursday morning at popular Latino grocery store Mariana’s.
Torres, who is originally from Puebla, Mexico and shops at Mariana’s for tortillas, meats and vegetables, found the store at 4151 South Eastern Ave. closed as part of the national Day Without Immigrants protest.
Immigrants nationwide skipped work and school in an attempt to demonstrate their importance to the U.S. economy, while many businesses closed in solidarity. The protest was aimed at President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on immigration, by such means as a wall at the Mexican border.
“We’re part of the community, and we contribute to making Las Vegas what it is,” Torres said in Spanish.
Mariana’s store owner Ruben Anaya said the closing was not politically motivated, but intended to show support for the majority of Hispanic store employees who wanted to participate in the boycott.
“It just picked up a lot of momentum this week, and we decided it’d be the right thing to do,” Anaya said. “They’ve supported us since Day 1, and we’d be nothing without them.”
Mariana’s wasn’t the only Las Vegas store to shut its doors Thursday.
Six La Bonita stores, another popular Latino grocery chain, were closed for the day to “support the cause,” spokeswoman Zaira Contreras said.
The closings frustrated North Las Vegas resident Antonio Arellano, who shook his head as he read a sign advising of La Bonita’s closing on the front door the store at 2672 Las Vegas Blvd. North. He said he stops by the store twice a week to buy groceries.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but this is kind of annoying,” he said.
Next to La Bonita, Rigo’s Taco #8 was serving up tacos, burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas, like any other day. Miguel Ortero, the taco shop’s manager, said while he supported the efforts of Day Without Immigrants protesters, he was working on Thursday to support his wife and two elementary school-age daughters.
“At the end of the day, you have to make money and make sure ends meet,” Ortero said.
Another popular Latino supermarket, Cardenas, said its four Las Vegas stores would remain open throughout the day.
In Chinatown, businesses seemed to be operating normally, with neon “open” signs illuminating the Asian restaurants and stores along Spring Mountain Road, west of the Las Vegas Strip.
Several Chinatown business owners said they hadn’t heard about Day Without Immigrants and didn’t have any plans to close early.
“Nobody told me about that,” said Yi Chenguang of the Fat Dumpling restaurant.
At a couple of Las Vegas area schools, meanwhile, more students than normal missed school, Clark County School District spokeswoman Michelle Booth said. But, for the most part, there was no significant decline in attendance across the district. Rancho High and Hyde Park Middle schools saw “an unusual dip in attendance,” she said.
“I have not heard anything so far that would suggest a large-scale boycott,” Booth said.
Fabiola Perez, who is from El Salvador and now lives in the northeast valley, pulled her daughter out of Mountain View Elementary School to attend a nearby education workshop supporting immigrants’ rights. The afternoon workshop, one of multiple held across the valley by non-profit Hermandad Mexicana, advised concerned immigrants on their legal status and educated them on their next steps to obtaining citizenship, an organization spokesman said.
Standing in line at the front window of the Hermandad Mexicana office on 2900 Stewart Ave., Perez, who is a green card holder, and her 8-year-old daughter Elisa, who was born in Las Vegas and is a U.S. citizen, attended the workshop to “make sure we’re safe.”
“We want to make sure our right to stay here is protected,” she said in Spanish. “Today is the right day to do this.”
Elsewhere around the nation, the heart of Philadelphia’s Italian Market was uncommonly quiet, per media reports, while several eateries and grocery stores in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston were also closed for the day.
Organizers of the protest, which originated Tuesday on social media and quickly spread across the nation, urged immigrants from all walks of life to participate. Mi Familia Vota and The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada were among local advocacy groups to support a Day Without Immigrants.
About 564,000 Nevadans are foreign-born, according to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, accounting for nearly 20 percent of Nevada’s population. Immigrants accounted for 21.4 percent of the Silver State’s work force in 2015, according to information obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Foreign-born Nevada workers, including those who are U.S. citizens, green card holders and immigrants working without legal authorization, often begin working in the state’s grocery, restaurant, construction, hotel, gaming and retail industries.
Over 65 percent of workers from the 57,000-member Culinary Union Local 226, which employs the majority of workers across those industries on the Las Vegas Strip, are foreign-born or children of foreign-born parents, spokeswoman Bethany Khan said.
“Our state and this country were built on the backs of immigrants,” Khan said. “All the people who make this country great should have a seat at the table.”