Edel Lopez was torn between his business and his conscience on Monday.

As scores of Hispanic-owned businesses across the country closed their doors in a show of support for immigrants’ rights, Lopez, who owns Cancun Mexican restaurants in Chatsworth and at Walnut Square Mall, debated whether to keep his businesses open.

He wanted to support the pro-immigration cause, but said his lease at the mall requires the restaurant to remain open during mall hours or face a hefty penalty.

The mall restaurant remained open on Monday. The Chatsworth restaurant did not.

“I want to support my Hispanic people, but I’m a businessman and can’t afford to pay the money,” said Lopez, a native of Mexico who says he is now a U.S. citizen.

Thousands of people — legal immigrants, undocumented workers and their supporters — protested at rallies throughout the country, including in Dalton, while the Hispanic-owned businesses closed hoping to flex their economic muscle during “Dia Sin Inmigrantes” (“Day Without Immigrants”).

In Dalton, strip malls on East Walnut Avenue and Morris Street, where many Hispanic businesses are located, looked more like ghost towns. A large banner hanging on the locked doors of La Providencia Supermercado off Fifth Avenue read, “Cerramos Por Solidaridad. Gracias Por Su Comprension” (“We are closed for solidarity. Thank you for your understanding”). Flyers posted in the window encouraged people to attend a pro-immigrant rally in Chattanooga. Signs posted at stores such as DiscoLatin off Walnut Avenue indicated they would reopen on Tuesday.

Barrett Marketplace off Walnut Avenue is home to several Hispanic-owned businesses. On Monday, just a handful of people milled around the closed stores.

Flor Tarin, an employee of Carniceria Loa, said the parking lot at Barrett Marketplace is usually packed with shoppers and the stores bustling with activity. She said all four Carniceria Loa stores in Dalton were closed on Monday. She didn’t think the loss of business would harm the stores.

Tarin said state and federal moves to crack down on immigrants are unfair.

“I think that it’s not right that they are doing this to us because we are a part of the economy,” Tarin said. “I’m pretty sure if we weren’t here the economy wouldn’t be as prosperous.”

She said her parents support immigrants’ rights, but they went to work Monday because they didn’t want to lose their jobs.

Lopez said two workers skipped work at Cancun’s mall location, choosing to attend a rally at the state Capitol in Atlanta. They would be welcomed back today, he said. He said Hispanics come to his restaurants seeking jobs without proper documentation so he has to turn them away.

“My heart is not good because it’s my people,” Lopez said. “I want to help but it’s a lot of problems.”

The impact of Monday’s boycott and rally on the local floorcovering industry was not immediately clear. Officials with Dalton-based Shaw Industries declined to comment. A spokesman for Calhoun-based Mohawk Industries did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

React to this story:


Recommended for you