Courtesy of ULA

Patrons looking to eat in New Haven may have struggled Thursday as businesses closed their doors in protest of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids that have taken place across the country since President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The shutdowns were a part of a national “Day Without Immigrants” strike, which shuttered businesses and schools across the country. Members of the local immigrant rights group Unidad Latina en Acción estimated that at least 20 businesses closed down in the Fair Haven and Hill neighborhoods and that dozens of New Haven individuals stayed home from work. Schools in New Haven did not close.

“I’m concerned about the separation of the families; it’s very tough,” said Moises Vargas, owner of Mariscos El Pescador, a Mexican restaurant that sells seafood and drinks on Grand Avenue.

Mariscos El Pescador shut its doors for the strike in a show of solidarity with immigrant communities in New Haven and across the United States.

Vargas, an immigrant to the United States, said he heard about the national strike on social media and through networks of friends and acquaintances. He said his employees, most of whom are also immigrants, were supportive of the decision to close for the day. Their support stemmed not from a desire for an off day, Vargas said, but because they too wanted to support the immigrant community at large.

Many surrounding businesses on Grand Avenue participated as well, according to Vargas. He expressed disappointment in those that did not close down for the day.

Yolanda Guzman, owner of Mi Lupita Bakery on Grand Avenue, also said she closed her bakery to demonstrate solidarity with immigrants and to help show the importance of New Haven’s immigrant community.

Jesus Morales, an organizer with ULA, said the immigrant advocacy group was not involved with planning the strike. Instead, the strike  developed as word spread through social media across the country, he said. In fact, the strike caught ULA off guard, he said.

After learning that members of the immigrant community planned on striking, ULA organized a small rally outside of City Hall on Thursday evening to show support for the initiative, Morales said.

ULA also used the opportunity to distribute “Know Your Rights” pamphlets with resources for undocumented residents in the event of an ICE raid, and to publicize   a strike the group is planning in solidarity with other immigrant rights organizations for International Worker’s Day on May 1.

Vargas said though he is not regularly involved with immigrant activist groups or nonprofits, he is worried about recent ICE raids in other parts of the country. Many of these raids deport “good workers” and separate parents from their children, Vargas said.

The last ICE raid in New Haven was in 2007, but Vargas has not forgotten it, he said — two of his friends were deported during the raid, as well as several of his restaurant’s customers.

Morales said he believes many have grown tired of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has become common in the United States; strikes, he said, are a way of showing the significance of a population.

“People don’t realize how much their lives might be affected if an entire group of people disappears from their communities,” he said.