Rick Bayless will close Chicago restaurants for Thursday immigrant action

AP logo
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Rick Bayless, Aurora businesses join A Day Without Immigrants protest
Rick Bayless will close his Chicago restaurants after his staff voted to support "A Day Without Immigrants" to show how important immigrants are to the economy.

CHICAGO -- Rick Bayless tweeted that he will close his four Chicago restaurants after his staff voted to support Thursday's "A Day Without Immigrants" action to show the country how important immigrants are to America's economy.

Frontera Grill, Topolobomp, Xoco and Fonda Frontera will all be closed Thursday.

Seventeen businesses in west suburban Aurora will also be closed as a show of solidarity in a predominantly Hispanic community.

La Villita, a cantina and liquor store, has been family owned for 20 years. The owner's daughter, a first-generation American citizen, said her father has never closed any of their four businesses before. But he will do so Thursday, joining thousands of other businesses nationwide.

"Our community is living in fear. Many immigrants from all parts of the world are living in fear with the current administration and the policies that they're kind of threatening and putting out there, and so I think that it's really important for people to understand that we're an integral part of the United States," said Karina Villa.

There is also a planned protest Thursday, in Union Park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Organizers in cities across the U.S. are telling immigrants to miss class, miss work and not shop on Thursday as a way to show the country how important they are to America's economy and way of life.

"A Day Without Immigrants" actions are planned in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and Austin, Texas.

The protest comes in response to President Donald Trump and his 1-month-old administration. The Republican president has pledged to increase deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally, build a wall along the Mexican border, and ban people from certain majority-Muslim countries from coming into the U.S. He also has blamed high unemployment on immigration.

Employers and institutions in some cities were already expressing solidarity Wednesday with immigrant workers. Washington restaurateur John Andrade said he would close his businesses Thursday, and David Suro, owner of Tequilas Restaurant in Philadelphia and a Mexican immigrant, said he also planned to participate.

The Davis Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts said it would remove or shroud all artwork created or given by immigrants to the museum through Feb. 21.

In New Mexico, the state with the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation, school officials worried that hundreds of students may stay home on Wednesday.

"We respectfully ask all parents to acknowledge that students need to be in class every day to benefit from the education they are guaranteed and to avoid falling behind in school and life," principals with the Albuquerque Public Schools wrote in a letter to parents.

Students who take part in the protest will receive an unexcused absence, Albuquerque school officials said.

Organizers in Philadelphia said they expect hundreds of workers and families to participate.

"Our goal is to highlight the need for Philadelphia to expand policies that stop criminalizing communities of color," said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, a nonprofit group that works with the Latino immigrant community. "What would happen if massive raids did happen? What would the city look like?"

Almiron said that while community groups have not seen an uptick in immigration raids in the city, residents are concerned about the possibility.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is among leaders in several cities nationwide who have vowed to maintain their "sanctuary city" status and decline to help federal law enforcement with deportation efforts.

Many people who make the choice to skip work Thursday will not be paid in their absence, but social media posts encouraging participation stressed that the cause is worth the sacrifice.

WLS-TV contributed to this report.