published Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Hispanics skip work to protest Alabama immigration law

Jose Contreras and his wife Nelva discuss the reasons for closing their Hispanic store and restaurant (rear) in Albertville, Ala., Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011. Dozens of businesses across the state shut down as Hispanics took a day off from work to protest against Alabama's tough new immigration law. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Jose Contreras and his wife Nelva discuss the reasons for closing their Hispanic store and restaurant (rear) in Albertville, Ala., Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011. Dozens of businesses across the state shut down as Hispanics took a day off from work to protest against Alabama's tough new immigration law. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Photo by Associated Press.
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JAY REEVES, Associated Press

ALBERTVILLE, Ala. — Along Main Street in this small Alabama town, the Mexican restaurant was closed, lights were out at a Hispanic-owned grocery store and even a bank catering to Spanish speakers was dark. Nearby, the usual hum of a chicken processing plant was silent.

Businesses dependent on immigrant labor were shuttered Wednesday as workers took the day off to protest the state's strict new immigration law.

The work stoppage appeared largest in northeast Alabama, the hub of the state's $2.7 billion poultry industry, but metropolitan areas were also affected. At least a half-dozen chicken processing plants closed or scaled back operations because employees, many of whom are Hispanic, didn't show up for work or told managers in advance they wanted to join the sick-out to show disapproval of the law upheld by a federal judge two weeks ago.

"We want the mayor, the governor, this judge to know we are part of the economy of Alabama," said Mexican immigrant Mireya Bonilla, who manages the supermarket La Orquidea, or "The Orchid," in Albertville.

The town of about 19,000 people has one of the highest concentrations of Hispanics in the state. Out of 4.7 million people in Alabama, there are an estimated 185,000 Hispanics, most of them of Mexican origin.

It wasn't clear exactly how many workers participated in the protest, but the parking lot was virtually empty at a Wayne Farms poultry plant, which employs about 850 people in Albertville. All along Main Street, Hispanic businesses were closed.

Jose Contreras shut down his restaurant and store, a move he said cost him about $2,500.

"We closed because we need to open the eyes of the people who are operating this state," said Contreras, originally from the Dominican Republican and a U.S. citizen. "It's an example of if the law pushes too much what will happen."

Since the law was upheld, many frightened Hispanics have hid in their homes or fled. Some construction workers, roofers and field hands have stopped showing up and schools have reported high absentee rates among Hispanic students. Officials said even more students were absent Wednesday, apparently because of the protest.

The Obama administration has asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to at least temporarily block enforcement of the law, arguing in court documents Wednesday that the statute oversteps the state's authority and could lead to the discrimination of legal residents. The appeals court has not indicated when it may rule on the administration's request for a preliminary injunction.

The law allows police to detain people indefinitely if they are suspected of being in the country illegally and requires schools to check the status of new students when they enroll.

Republican supporters say the new immigration law, considered the toughest in the nation, was intended to force illegal workers out of jobs and help legal residents find work in a state suffering from high unemployment. GOP Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed the law, had no immediate comment on the protests.

Spanish-speaking radio stations and Facebook users helped spread the word about the sick-out.

At Crossville Elementary School in DeKalb County in the northeast part of the state, principal Ed Burke said about 160 of the school's 600 students weren't in class.

"We normally would have about 20 or 30 out," he said.

A few miles away, a Hispanic-owned grocery store was closed. Morning business was slow at a convenience store typically full of Hispanic workers buying breakfast.

"There's nobody. We're usually wide open," said a store worker who would not give her name.

Albertville Mayor Lindsey Lyons said the protest wouldn't hurt the city very much, even though dozens of businesses were closed.

"It will only be a minor impact. Most of our major retailers are open," Lyons said.

Although on a smaller scale, the Alabama protest was similar to one in 2006, when hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated at numerous events around the nation to beat back a bill in Congress that aimed to stiffen penalties for illegal immigration. Thousands of California students walked out of classes that March, among numerous protests that led up to a "Day Without Immigrants" worker boycott.

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Wilder said...

"We closed because we need to open the eyes of the people who are operating this state," said Contreras, originally from the Dominican Republican and a U.S. citizen. "It's an example of if the law pushes too much what will happen."

Contreras represents the second wave of Hispanics, who follow the illegal aliens like sea gulls follow a cruise ship. His business, which has taken a native business owner's slot, is based on the continued violation of our immigration laws. There are hundreds like him in Dalton.

October 13, 2011 at 7:44 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

"the Mexican restaurant was closed, lights were out at a Hispanic-owned grocery store and even a bank catering to Spanish speakers was dark. Nearby, the usual hum of a chicken processing plant was silent".....Good! They need to be closed permanently! Do you see any Black or White employees in any of the Mexican restaurants? And, why are there stores in this country that do not have a word of ENGLISH on the outside? Do they hire whites/blacks? This story is so slanted! Immigrants are legal and have nothing to worry about and no need to hide! ILLEGALs are here in violation of the law and should be worried! And, crops are rotting in the fields?

October 13, 2011 at 9:56 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

I drive through St Elmo everyday and if crops are rotting in the fields in Georgia/Alabama why are there all these Latinos taking construction jobs in St Elmo? And, this is just one neighborhood in Chattanooga. There is a house being built at the end of W 46th by ALL Latinos...house being painted in the 4500 blk of Tenn by 2 Latinos..house being roofed at Beulah and 51st by Latinos...and the burnt church on St Elomo Ave is being rebuilt by a bunch of Latinos...so these are jobs citizens do NOT want? No, these are jobs given to them at a lower wage and little benefits to undercut the legal worker and line the contractors pockets! Hire no contractor that hires/sub contracts Illegals...take our jobs back....

October 13, 2011 at 10:02 a.m.
rasmas said...

Why does the U.S. allow this? Why don't they just skip on down across the border? WAY down. Just about all of them are NOT legal. We are supposed to be ENGLISH speeking people. I don't speak German, I speak southern english.

October 13, 2011 at 10:42 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

Pay Attention to this: Since Georgia and Alabama are cracking down on Illegals guess where they are going to go? Yep...across the border in Tennessee and take those crop picking jobs in the construction industry that no citizen wants!...drive through East Lake sometime...its easy to pick out where they live...I recommend: www.numbersusa.com if you are interested in stopping Illegals!

October 13, 2011 at 11:32 a.m.
Wilder said...

rasmas said: "Why does the U.S. allow this?"

The politicians look after the interest of the top one percent, knowing from past history that the other ninety-nine percent will believe anything they tell them. The top one percent select the politicians, who function as their proxies, then hire the party cheer leaders, who pass out the pom poms to the sheeple. The sheeple treat it like a sporting event - waving their pom poms and cheering for the guy who is going to put a chicken in their pot.

A faction of the one percent have found that illegal alien labor generates more profit for them, because they don't have to pay them enough to live on - they can just dump them on the middle class taxpayers.

Until people wake up and realize that the politicians do not represent their interest, they will continue this involuntary transfer of not only their assets, but their entire way of life.

October 13, 2011 at 12:34 p.m.
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