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Restaurants, businesses close nationwide for 'A Day Without Immigrants'

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BOSTON - Restaurants and businesses across the country are staying closed Thursday so people can take part in the national movement “A Day Without Immigrants” to protest Pres. Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Organizers are telling immigrants to stay home from work, not go to class and to not spend money as a way to show how important they are to the United States and the economy.

"I got married to a beautiful U.S. Navy officer. That's why I am here," said Julie King, owner of Villa Mexico Cafe in Boston. 

Mexican lawyer turned restaurateur King said life as a new immigrant was and remains hard, especially after her husband died, about 18 years ago.

"Being a widow it wasn't easy. Being an immigrant, it wasn't easy either. Being by myself, it wasn't easy either," she said. 

Her restaurant gave her strength, and that's why she gave her employees that option to take the day off with pay. 

"We, the people that are here, we are hard workers. They are honest people," she said. 

>> List: Mass. businesses participating in 'A Day Without Immigrants'

At least a half-dozen Boston-area restaurants are participating, including Eataly in Boston, Anna's Taqueria, which has several locations, and BLR by Shojo, in Chinatown.

"The beauty of our location in Chinatown is its deep-rooted history in migration, opportunity and innovation," a statement from BLR by Shojo, in Chinatown, said. "Our restaurants' heart and soul are no exception. We hope you understand our choice to commit to this movement."

Smaller businesses from Everett to Worcester also joined in, like Canton-based The Chubby Chickpea food truck. Their signature truck was parked and closed up for the lunch rush, the most lucrative part of their business.

"As a leader, I just feel like if I'm going ask those people to support what I do and run through walls for me, then when they need me, I have to use whatever influence I have to try and support them in their cause," said owner Avi Shemtov.

Movement organizers hope to send a message that immigrants are essential to the country’s economy and said, “without us and without our contribution, this country is paralyzed.”

“We want to let (Trump) know that we’re not criminals,” Philadelphia restaurant owner David Pena said. “We’re workers. We support our country.”

New York’s Blue Ribbon Restaurant Group is shutting down most of its locations Thursday. And well-known restaurants are also closing in a place that Washington, D.C. is likely to notice -- the Capital itself, including high-profile spots owned by celebrity Chef Jose Andres.

He said he’s involved in a legal battle with Trump over a restaurant lease. He said he expects to lose nearly $100,000 from Thursday’s closing, but said it’s worth it.

“We have people that they are a part of the DNA that they are working on golf courses, maybe owned by Mr. Trump himself in restaurants and farms,” Andres said.

A Day Without Immigrants is a new response, at least for the Trump administration. There have been several protests and marches since Trump took office in January, but there hasn’t been a protest yet that’s designed to affect consumers and the economy.