Immigrants Set to Demonstrate What Life Would be Like Without Them

James Deweese, Press of Atlantic City, Feb. 14, 2006

Nancy Matias hopes her shuttered shop will serve as a poignant reminder of the local contributions made by immigrant workers, business owners and residents.

Matias, a Mexican immigrant who’s lived in Bridgeton for 16 years, won’t open her year-old Commerce Street restaurant, Mexico Lindo, today.

Instead, she and her family will join an estimated 1,500 Spanish-speaking immigrants from Cumberland County at a Philadelphia rally to protest a proposed federal law that would criminalize illegal immigrants’ presence in the county and expand the definition of alien smuggling to include agencies that help them.

The rally, scheduled for noon at the Liberty Bell at Fifth and Market streets, complements what a loose coalition of Hispanic community organizations across New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania have termed “A Day Without Immigrants.”

“If there weren’t immigrants, there would be no business for me or others here and there’d be no one to work the fields,” Matias said Monday as she stood behind the counter of her Mexican buffet restaurant inside Bridgeton’s commercial core. “I’m closing tomorrow and we’re going to show our support for others.”

Rally organizers have called on Spanish-speaking immigrants of all nationalities and legal statuses to stay home from work today and avoid spending money during the “Paro” or “stoppage.” Their hope is to underscore the role immigrants play in the economic and social fabric of the country.

“It will be as if everyone really left the country,” Matias said.

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