SUNNYSIDE Fiesta Foods customers making a quick trip to the store yesterday were disappointed to find the grocer closed.
The area’s largest Hispanic grocery store was among more than 60 Lower Yakima Valley businesses closed in support of the national “Day Without Immigrants” protest.
The protest was in response to President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, “extreme vetting,” and pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border.
“I think people are forgetting that this was a temporary ban lasting only three or four months, to give the administration some time to review and revamp the vetting process,” Gary Clark of Granger said. “But people are acting like it is something permanent.”
Some store employees were on duty, but they declined to comment on the closure.
The boycott encouraged immigrants to stay home, close their businesses and not send children to school. It also called on supporters to avoid shopping, buying gasoline and eating in restaurants.
In Sunnyside, meat markets, groceries, bakeries, salons, mechanic shops, taco trucks and even car dealerships were closed. The same was true in Grandview, where three markets catering primarily to the Hispanic community closed.
Clark agreed people have a right to peaceful protests, but he also believes there should be a limit.
“I don’t think they have a right to impede people’s access where they conduct their businesses,” he said.
Susie Uribe voiced similar concerns outside Fiesta Foods.
“It’s hard when you need to buy something,” she said. “It’s okay to support something, but it’s a business. They need to think about the other people who need to buy something.”
She and fellow shopper Cynthia Uribe said they may shop elsewhere next time.
Others echoed similar sentiments.
“I’m afraid Fiesta Foods may lose customers over this,” Sunnysider Rick Garza said. “But I like that they gave their employees the choice to participant in the boycott to prove a point.”
Shoppers weren’t the only ones affected.
Many families kept their children home.
A reader reported attendance in her daughter’s classroom was down by half. And Chief Kamiakin Elementary School staff said unofficially that 129 students were absent.
Others noticed high school parking lots were nearly empty of students’ cars.
The Sunnyside School District reported 43 percent of its 6,843 enrolled students absent, spokeswoman Jessica Morgan said.
The social media-organized protest was designed to show the Trump Administration the impact of immigrants, organizers said.
Flyers calling for the work boycott were distributed throughout the area.
Grandview City Councilwoman Gloria Mendoza closed her businesses.
“It’s important to support all people living in this country, especially those people in need,” she said.
Mendoza, who operates GMC Institute and Vineyard Cafe, highlighted on Facebook a list of more than 50 businesses from Prosser to Sunnyside that closed Thursday. As the day progressed, more businesses added their names.
“Immigrants are being targeted,” Mendoza said. “It’s difficult to support anything or anyone that encourages the separation of families.
“This protest is one way to demonstrate how immigrants contribute daily to the economic success of our country, and hopefully it will authenticate how important immigrants are to the entire nation.”
Armando and Sanjuana Villarreal, who forgot Fiesta Foods was closed, said people who come this country just want to work.
“They aren’t hurting anyone,” Armando said. “They are just trying to make a living.”