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The Mexican restaurant along Main Street in the small town of Albertville in Alabama was closed. Lights were out at a Hispanic-owned grocery store and it was also dark at a bank that caters to Spanish speakers. A chicken processing plant nearby was also silent with its usual hum missing.
Businesses that are dependent on immigrant labor were closed Wednesday as employees took the day off to protest the tough new immigration law of the state.
The work stoppage seemed largest in northeast Alabama, considered the center of the $2.7 billion poultry industry of the state, but metro areas were also heavily affected.
Reports indicate that at least six chicken processing plants stopped functioning, or scaled back their operations because workers, many of whom are Hispanic, did not show up for work or already informed managers in advance that they wanted to join the protest to signify their disapproval of the law, which was upheld two weeks ago by a federal judge.
Mireya Bonilla, a Mexican immigrant who runs the supermarket La Orquidea, or “The Orchid,” in Albertville, said, “We want the mayor, the governor, this judge to know we are part of the economy of Alabama.”
This small town of around 19,000 people has one of the highest concentrations of Hispanics in Alabama. Out of the 4.7 million people in Alabama, there are approximately 185,000 Hispanics, many of whom are of Mexican origin.
It was not exactly clear how many workers participated in the work stoppage. But the parking lot at a Wayne Farms poultry plant, which employs around 850 people in Albertville, was virtually empty. All Hispanic businesses along Main Street were closed.