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updated: 2/17/2017 8:23 AM

Suburban businesses close for 'A Day Without Immigrants'

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  • Customers read signs at the entrance of Elgin Fresh Market on McLean Boulevard explaining that the business closed Thursday in support of the national "A Day Without Immigrants" movement.

      Customers read signs at the entrance of Elgin Fresh Market on McLean Boulevard explaining that the business closed Thursday in support of the national "A Day Without Immigrants" movement.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Village Fresh Market in Carpentersville closed to mark "A Day Without Immigrants" Thursday.

    Village Fresh Market in Carpentersville closed to mark "A Day Without Immigrants" Thursday.
    Courtesy of Denisse Garcher

  • Elgin Fresh Market is among suburban businesses that closed Thursday for "A Day Without Immigrants."

      Elgin Fresh Market is among suburban businesses that closed Thursday for "A Day Without Immigrants."
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Fresh Market closed Thursday in support of "A Day Without Immigrants," which aimed to show how important immigrants are to the U.S. economy.

      Elgin Fresh Market closed Thursday in support of "A Day Without Immigrants," which aimed to show how important immigrants are to the U.S. economy.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

Raza Haq moved to the U.S. from India more than 20 years ago and decided "A Day Without Immigrants" was a perfect way to show solidarity with others who followed similar paths.

He closed his Grill Effect Restaurants in Lisle and Wheaton on Thursday, despite potential losses in the thousands of dollars, to stand by his workers and customers, he said.

"Sure, this is going to impact us," said Haq, 39. "But this is for a real cause and I am willing to bear that cost."

Haq joined other business owners in the suburbs and nationwide who decided to close for the day in an effort to show how important immigrants are to the U.S. economy. The movement started quickly via social media last week to protest the Trump administration's policies toward immigrants.

Businesses in other suburbs, including Aurora, Carpentersville, Elgin and Geneva, also closed or backed up employees who didn't show up for work. A crowd estimated at 1,000 people marched through the Loop to a rally at Federal Plaza in Chicago.

In Washington, D.C., the Pentagon warned its employees that a number of its food concessions were closed because immigrant employees had stayed home, according to The New York Times. In New York, parts of the construction industry were shut down and in some neighborhoods the majority of stores were closed.

"We've had a short time to plan this, but it's been very successful," said Rebecca Shi, executive director of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, which has 79 corporate members in the hospitality, medical, agricultural and manufacturing industries around Illinois.

Mike Simon, owner of The Little Traveler home decor and fair trade store in Geneva, posted on Facebook that he'll pay his employees their regular wages, whether they show up for work or not.

"As a business that employs many wonderful people who were not born in the U.S., we fully support this movement. My grandparents were immigrants to this country, coming here to escape persecution," said Simon, who is donating 10 percent of revenues for the day to the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Elgin Fresh Market's two locations are closed for the day, with the owners posting this message on Facebook late Wednesday: "We would like to thank all of our customers for their support at Elgin Fresh Market. Our stores wouldn't be a success without our community."

Village Fresh Market in Carpentersville posted on Facebook that it would close, and a number of restaurants around the suburbs also closed.

The initiative also exhorted students to stay home from school, and at least two suburban school districts reported lower attendance Thursday.

Attendance dropped by as much as 29 percent at some elementary schools in Elgin Area School District U-46, including Garfield and Ontarioville in Elgin and Laurel Hill in Hanover Park, spokeswoman Mary Fergus said.

"When parents called in, some of them did say it was to participate in ('A Day Without Immigrants') and others didn't," she said. "Certainly that's a parent's right to make that decision."

Overall average attendance was 85 percent throughout the Elgin school district, down from 93 percent on Wednesday, Fergus said. The district numbers about 40,000 students.

Schools in Round Lake Area Unit District 116, which has about 7,300 students, had attendance ranging from 74 percent to 87 percent, compared to 94 percent to 99 percent Wednesday, spokeswoman Heather Bennett said.

At Palatine High School, attendance was "a fairly typical" 95 percent or so, said Tom Petersen, director of community relations for Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211.

The principal, Gary Steiger, made an announcement late Wednesday after some student leaders approached him about a possible boycott and asked him to remind the student body that joining school clubs is a way to stay active in current events, Petersen said. Steiger encouraged students to come to school and wear school gear, Petersen said.

"When I talked to him this morning, he said that a lot of people are wearing red today," he said.

There were no reports of excessive absences at any other District 211 schools, he added.

Los Comales restaurants in Melrose Park and Elgin also closed on Thursday, owner David Suarez said.

"My father and grandparents immigrated here and I was born here," said Suarez, 31. "We closed to show our solidarity to our employees and our clients and to tell them their voice matters."

The Chicago area is home to more than 1.6 million foreign-born residents of Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, McHenry and Will counties, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2015 American Community Survey.

• Staff writers Marco Ortiz, Bob Susnjara, Marie Wilson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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