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Community reacts to "Day Without Immigrants"

By Ismael Perez
Feb. 16, 2017 at 11:39 p.m.
Updated Feb. 16, 2017 at 11:40 p.m.

Christian Vasquez, center, leads a group of UHV students down Rio Grande Street for a demonstration against intolerance.

Christian Vasquez, center, leads a group of UHV students down Rio Grande Street for a demonstration against intolerance.   Casey Jackson for The Victoria Advocate

While employees prepared plates of food and waited tables, the phone rang at Angie's Mexican Cafe with an anonymous voice saying, "ICE is coming for you."

Angie Hernandez, the owner, said the recent phone calls mentioning the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been scaring her employees lately.

So, she was not surprised when five of her employees stayed away from work Thursday in support of "Day Without Immigrants" to show the value of immigrants to America.

Victoria residents joined the movement that occurred in cities across the U.S. Some people protested by not going to work or school. Others gathered to march, and businesses shut down.

Students from the University of Houston-Victoria gathered on one of Victoria's busiest streets chanting "No more hate" to show their solidarity to the community.

Christian Vasquez, 20, said the march was inspired by the "Day Without Immigrants," but its purpose expanded to other social issues such as the arson fire that destroyed the Victoria Islamic Center.

The march started with two students at the university and grew to a group of 30 people that included students and residents who joined as they marched down Rio Grande Street, waving small American flags and held signs that read "Mosque still stands" and "We're all the same."

Jessica Bueno, 19, is a UHV student from Austin who joined the march because of an event that happened in her hometown.

"ICE has been coming around and knocking on doors of some people in Austin," Bueno said. "A normal trip to the grocery store or the park turns out to be the day a dad or a mom doesn't come home to their kids. This doesn't just happen in Austin - it goes beyond it."

Bueno said the "Day Without Immigrants" was a way to support those who do not have a strong voice in society, specifically minorities.

She said there was only one man giving them a thumbs-down as they walked. However, the amount of support the march received surprised her.

"We got a lot of honking, a lot of waving and a lot of support," Bueno said. "It felt so great that we were doing something good and the community is accepting us and supporting us."

While restaurants such as La Carreta Taqueria on Port Lavaca Drive were closed for the day, Hernandez and her son, David Hernandez, were open for business at Angie's as well as La Frontera even though they were short-staffed.

David Hernandez said employees were not the only ones to affect their business. Clients were also a factor in the slow business day.

"A majority of people that come eat here are Latinos and come buy breakfast tacos before they go to work or when they drop off their kids at school," Hernandez said in Spanish. "But, with them staying home, we did not have many people come in."

The owners said while they are bothered by the government's policy on immigration, they decided to stay open because of the elderly and disabled who cannot cook for themselves and depend on their food each day.

While they usually have about five cooks preparing the food, Hernandez said he had to take over their duties, which reminded him of how hot it can get in the kitchen.

"Sometimes people don't see the value of immigrants, they don't value the sacrifices they do by working in tough jobs," Hernandez said. "If I'd show you our applications, you would see not one person that speaks English that wants to work in the back."

Laurie Drane, 43, of Victoria, was at Olive Garden in Houston and was surprised that she was given a limited menu and that the restaurant was not crowded.

"When I asked for the regular menu, they said no," Drane said. "The waitress said they had a limited menu items because all the cooks were on strike."

Drane said she was told the managers were in the kitchen cooking the food.

"The first thing that came through my mind was, 'I wonder if the food is going to be good,'" Drane said.

Drane said she did not see the point of the strike because she thought the only people affected were the employees.

The Olive Garden in Victoria saw no signs of a protest, said Sonny Baca, manager at the North Navarros Street restaurant. The menu was not limited and it was just a normal Thursday with a regular-sized staff, Baca said.

Angie Hernandez said the day reminded her of the impact immigrant consumers and the workers have in society.

"Hopefully, this protest helps the government see that we all need each other in order for this country to prosper," Hernandez said.

Note: This story was updated Feb. 17 to correct the location of the Olive Garden where Drane ate.


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