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‘Day without immigrants’ prompts march, local boycotts

Concepcion Choy of Riverhead is an immigrant from Guatemala who has lived in the United States for 12 years. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

A social media post early Thursday morning from Aldo’s Coffee in Greenport read: “We are open on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and every other national holiday. Today, we are closed.”

This message was accompanied by a photo of a sign that read “In support of our people and #ADayWithoutImmigrants.”

“A day without immigrants” is a nationwide movement organized through social media encouraging people to boycott work for a day to demonstrate how important the immigrant population is in this country.

“Closing the cafe today speaks for itself,” said Aldo Maiorana, the owner of Aldo’s Coffee, in an email Thursday morning. “As an immigrant [he was born in Sicily and raised in France], I was welcomed into this community and have been fortunate to have a business here for over 30 years. I am very proud to live in a country that was built by immigrants. It is as simple as that.”

Mr. Maiorano is not the only business owner on the East End to stand in solidarity with the movement. About a dozen delis in the Riverhead area also closed their doors on Thursday while several locals attended a march and vigil in Hampton Bays.

Flanders business owner Jennifer Carrera said the local Hispanic deli owners came together Wednesday evening and decided unanimously to all close.

“We said if one [business] wanted to be open then we were all going to be open, but if we all decided to close then no one would open,” she said.

Ms. Carrera, who owns Deli El Quetzal on Flanders Road, added: “It’s important to know that Spanish people can affect the way of life here.”

Armando Llamas runs two family delis in Riverhead on Osborn Avenue and East Main Street.

“We are all Spanish,” he said. “We want to be heard. We’re going to lose money, but we’re doing it for a good cause.”

Miriam Carrera, owner of the express deli by the Riverhead railroad tracks, said she felt good about being closed for the day.

“I think we’re doing the right thing,” she said. Ms. Carrera, a Guatemala native, said the immigrant community is full of hard working people who fear being sent back to their native country.

“We contribute to the country; we should have the opportunity to stay in the country,” she said.

Riverhead school district superintendent Nancy Carney said in an email “many of our immigrant students were absent today.” She did not have an additional comment.

The march in Hampton Bays was organized by SEPA Mujer, an organization that empowers immigrant women and has chapters in Hampton Bays and Riverside.

“We’re supporting our members,” said Dulce Rojas, a community organizer at SEPA Mujer. “This is something our members wanted and people in the community wanted so we’re going out to support this march for peace and unity.”

Marchers along Main Street in Hampton Bays.
Marchers along Main Street in Hampton Bays. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

The march began at the Shell gas station on Main Street and drew a crowd of about 200 or more as protesters and supporters made their way to the Church of St. Rosalie for a vigil.

Marchers from around the East End chanted things like,”No human is illegal,” and “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido,” which means, “The people united will never be defeated.” Some waved the American flag along with the flags of their countries of origin, including Mexico and Guatemala.

Cencepcion Choy of Riverhead, a SEPA Mujer member, said it was important to be there as an immigrant from Guatemala.

“This is my country,” she said, holding a sign that read “Immigrants make America great.”

“I have a daughter and I don’t want to be discriminated,” she said. “Some people think that just because you’re not from here you don’t deserve anything and why I’m here, to fight for that.”

Riverhead resident Juana Felix said the country is “not all right” for immigrants at this time.

“This country is made by immigrants and that’s why everybody has to be together to make this country like it’s supposed to be,” she said, adding that she felt it is not right not deport people who have children that are U.S. citizens.

Anita Busby of Peconic, who learned about the march while helping out at Saint Agnes Church food pantry, said she felt very strongly that deportation is not the answer. She was out in support of all immigrants, including a friend who is not here legally, but has family members who are.

“Particularly in the manner that it’s being done now,” she said. “I think there should be an easier way for people to become citizens, particularly those who have lived here for a long time, worked here for a long time, their children are citizens, and maybe others in they’re family, and they’re good people.”

Ms. Rojas said the Hispanic community is fearful because of recent Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raid rumors.

Christopher Worth, an attorney who largely works in immigration law and whose practice recently moved to East Quogue from Riverhead, said he’s learned that people are concerned about their family members being detained and their rights being violated. He said there are a lot of rumors and speculation about how ICE operates.

“Right now it’s important for everyone to stay calm, to focus on preparation, not to get caught up in irrational fear, but we know that there will be increased enforcement,” he said.

He said people should start to know their rights and be prepared in the event that someone is detained, making sure they have documentation that shows they’ve had a continuous residence in the U.S. for a substantial period of time, as well as understand their immigration and criminal histories.

Paola Zuniga of Flanders, a member of SEPA Mujer, the group that organized the march in Hampton Bays.
Paola Zuniga-Tellez of Flanders is a member of SEPA Mujer, the group that organized the march in Hampton Bays. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

Another member of SEPA Mujer, Paola Zuniga-Tellez of Flanders, said they have not received backlash for organizing the march and is glad to see they are supported.

“I think people are going to start noticing that immigrants are strong people here,” she said.

Ms. Zuniga-Tellez said the march is a good start toward having a more organized Latino community on the East End.

“The community wants to be a part of something that people can notice,” she said. “We want to educate people who don’t know they have rights so their families can feel safe.”

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See more photos below:

Felipe Mendez of Hampton Bays with a sign that reads “More peace, less hate.” (Credit: Kelly Zegers)
A small crowd of protesters appeared across the street from the march.
A small crowd of protesters appeared across the street from the march. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)
People filled the sidewalk, chanting and holding signs.
People filled the sidewalk, chanting and holding signs. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)
Chants were led in both Spanish and English. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)
The crowd gathered at St. Rosalie's Church in Hampton Bays.
The crowd gathered at St. Rosalie’s Church in Hampton Bays. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)
A young marcher by a sign that reads, "Peace united, no more fear."
A young marcher by a sign that reads, “Peace united, no more fear.” (Credit: Kelly Zegers)