At least a dozen local businesses closed their doors, and many Hispanic residents stayed home as part of the protest of federal immigration policies.

SUSAN MATHENY - Numerous local businesses closed their doors Thursday, Feb. 16, to protest anti-immigrant policies, including the president's plans to construct a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and roundups of illegal immigrants — some of whom have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives.
From one end of Madras to the other, Hispanic residents were noticeably absent last Thursday, as businesses closed to mark the nationwide "Day Without Immigrants."

The Feb. 16 protest involved at least a dozen local businesses and schools, as Hispanic residents demonstrated the importance of immigrants, and their role in the local economy.

Business owners and employees were also protesting the president's plans to construct a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and the ongoing roundups of illegal immigrants that have split up families across the country.

Among the businesses displaying "Closed" (or "Cerrado") signs were Rio Restaurant, Mazatlan Restaurant, Disco Tienda El Caballito, Bada Bing Barbershop, Reynoso's Jewelry, El Mercadito Latino, El Surtidor Tienda Mexicana, La Cabanita Restaurant, Esmeralda's Fashion, Alfredo's Tire Shop and Madras Tires.

"Some businesses told employees if they don't come to work, they're fired," said Narciso Perez, who manages the 13 employees at Mazatlan. "That was not my point."

Perez wanted to stress that immigrants are not criminals. "Some are families," he said. "What they're doing here is working."

At Black Bear Diner, owner Joe Davis employs numerous Hispanic workers, all of whom were at work last Thursday.

"All my immigrants are American citizens," he said. "Out of 48 employees, I have 30 of Hispanic origin, from El Salvador, Honduras or Mexico, and they knew about it, but chose to come to work."

"There are other ways to make a point other than losing revenue," Davis continued. "I told them if my assistant and I have to work double shifts, there will be consequences, and they all showed up."

The owner of El Surtidor Tienda Mexicana, Aurelio Perez (no relation to Narciso Perez), has lived in the U.S. for the past 27 years, and in Madras for 17 years, raising two daughters and a son.

He closed his shop in support of the national protest. "The Hispanic people are hard workers," he said, noting that a longer closure would have caused more dramatic effects. "If it stopped one week, there would be serious problems."

Both Central Oregon Seed and CHS Inc., now Pratum Co-op, had their Hispanic employees show up for work, while Daryl Booren, director of personnel at Bright Wood Corp., said, "It had a negligible impact here."

School District 509-J and Kids Club saw more empty seats as a result of the protest. No specific numbers were available from the school district, but Darryl Smith, operations director, said that the attendance rate on Thursday was down to 78 percent, while by Friday, it was up to 83 percent.

At check-in, Kids Club had only 45 youths in the STEM program show up out of 80.

About 38-40 percent of the population of the city of Madras is Hispanic, while about 19-20 percent of the county's population is Hispanic.

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