A multi-city protest called A Day Without Immigrants was felt in Philadelphia, as hundreds of immigrants took the day off from work or chose not to attend school. 

But a noon rally outside Philadelphia's Municipal Services Building was lightly attended. 

 

 

 

 

Philadelphia resident Elizabeth Quintero, who was born in Colombia, was among the small group of people who attended the rally. She said she closed her Spanish language school for the day to send a message to President Trump.

"We are part of the community, that we support this country, that we pay taxes, that we are part of the economy," Quintero said. "I think this is very important."

Andrea Fleegle is a manager at Oyster House in Center City where she figures about 20 prep cooks, bussers, food runners and hosts have stayed home from work.

As a result, owner Sam Mink created a limited menu at this and a second restaurant next door, Mission Taqueria. A sign on the door said the restaurants support the protest and are still paying workers who did not come in.

"The owner took a look at some of the staples that we feature, and what we could get away with, with a very limited staff in the kitchen," Fleegle said. "A lot of our platters that are very popular, all of our fish entrées that we offer. Luckily, we're an oyster house, so we can always serve raw and chilled things, but a lot of the hot prepared foods we just can't offer today."

Still, the limited menu didn't seem to deter the steady stream of customers who flowed in at the start of the lunchtime rush.

Area schools saw attendance numbers sink, as students skipped school to participate in protests. Norristown Area School District Superintendent Janet Samuels, for example, said 23.4 percent of the district's 7,000 students were out today, up from a daily average of 5 to 6 percent.

"We will work family by family (to determine why students were absent)," Samuels said. "We look forward to all children being in school every day. But we do understand there is a national trend of people taking a stand today."

Kevin Geary, a Philadelphia public schools spokesman, said he wouldn't have today's attendance figures for two days and said he hadn't heard anything about how actions might have affected attendance in city schools.

But Amy Roat, who teaches English as a Second Language to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at the Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, said a handful of students missed school today there. Roat, a member of the Caucus of Working Educators, said social justice issues frequently become class lessons and fodder for classroom conversation.

"Some of the students in my class, even when they're here legally, say: 'Oh, I'm never going back (to whatever country they immigrated from).' They say they'll never see their grandparents again or other family they left, because their status here will be in jeopardy," Roat said. "So that's a cruel fact of life for them."

The Day Without Immigrants events were a protest against President Trump's travel ban to the United States for citizens from seven predominantly-Muslim nations; Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. A federal court has put the executive order on hold pending a full review.

Trump's travel ban is part of his overall pledge to step up deportation of undocumented immigrants, build a wall along the Mexican border, and ban people from certain majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. The president has blamed high unemployment on immigration, although experts say that sentiment is "overly simplistic and misguided."

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The Italian Market in South Philadelphia was empty today. (Annette John-Hall/WHYY)

Hundreds of workers and families participated in Philadelphia. Protest organizers said the action demonstrates the potential effect of massive immigration raids in the city and called today's event a trial balloon for a larger strike planned for May 1.

Immigrants and their American-born children make up 26 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the Migration Policy Institute. About 1 million foreign-born people have immigrated to the United States each year in recent years, according to census figures.


Staff writers Dana DiFilippo and Emily Rolen and the Associated Press contributed to this report.