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‘Day Without Immigrants’ impact in NJ: Closed stores, no coffee for Menendez

TRENTON — It will be hard to get a taxi today in Perth Amboy. One of the impacts of the national “Day Without Immigrants” in New Jersey.

The day is intended to show the impact of immigrants on daily life in the United States in response to President Donald Trump, whose administration has pledged to increase the deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally. The protest gained momentum on social media and by word of mouth.

Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, a group that describes itself as a “trusted, non-partisan voice for Latinos,” tweeted her support for the event.

“From doctors to dishwashers, immigrants are integral to daily life in the U.S.,” Murguia said in her tweet, expressing support for celebrity chef Jose Andrés’ decision to close his Washington, D.C. restaurants.

Protests and actions are planned around the country including New Jersey. A group called New Labor organized events in Newark, New Brunswick and Lakewood today but did not specify on its Facebook page where their events will take place, except to say that there will be coffee first “and get to the street with our message.”

The Lakewood Scoop reported that men, women and children held signs in Red Square in downtown Lakewood on Thursday. Many students also stayed out of class at Lakewood High School, according to the Scoop.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Lakewood’s population in 2015 at 96,575 with 9,929 as foreign born or not a U.S. citizen.

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Senator Robert Menendez in a tweet said the movement affected his Washington D.C. staff’s ability to get their coffee and was symbolic of the impact immigrants have on daily life. Standing in front a closed cafe in the U.S.Senate Dirksen’s office building Menendez said, “this is what happens when you have a day without immigrants. The enormous contributions that immigrants make to this country are felt at every level. Today, Capital Hill staffers got a real dosage of what it is not to have immigrants serving them as they do each and every day.”

Menendez in a statement said, “Some people on the other side may be willing to tell immigrants that they can work for us but never become one of us. That is unacceptable. One of my goals is to guide all Americans towards a new understanding of immigrants in this country, to assert once and for all that we are all full participants in the dream. Immigrants and their contributions in sweat and blood have helped make the country great and will continue to do so. To push away from the excesses and the injustices that distort reality, we need to accentuate the real story as it is. Immigrants are already part of the American tapestry. We are all America.”

He also tweeted the message in Spanish.

New Jersey’s senior senator said

The city of Perth Amboy’s official website states that several businesses will be supporting the event including taxi cab companies based in the city. These businesses will be closed or will curtail service, according to the city’s website.

The New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association president Marilou Halvorsen told New Jersey 101.5 they warned members over the weekend about the movement. “By and large I think most of our members have talked to their employees. Our restuarants support their employees. They are critical to the success of the business. They just asked that if they are going to participate in the protest that they give them a heads up so they can schedule accordingly.”

Halvorsen said owners realize that “this is not a protest against their business. It’s a protest against the executive order” banning people from seven majority-Muslim countries. That ban has since been suspended by the courts.

“I think (the workers) just want to show how important immigration is to the success of small business in this country,” Halvorson.

Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, C‐Store & Automotive Association, told New Jersey 101.5 that “not one person has called regarding that”  expressing any concern about the impact on their business.

There is also concern about recent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement around the country to find those who are in the United States. ICE has conducted raids around the country during the past two weeks, resulting in 680 arrests, including 40 “in and around New York.”

On Monday’s “Ask the Governor” program on New Jersey 101.5, Gov. Chris Christie said he is not aware of New Jersey being involved in any raids.

Trump has pledged to increase deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally and build a wall along the Mexican border. He has blamed high unemployment on immigration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com

More from New Jersey 101.5

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