ALBERTVILLE, Ala. (AP) — At least a half-dozen poultry plants shut down or scaled back operations Wednesday and many other businesses closed as Hispanics in Alabama skipped work to protest the state’s toughest-in-the-nation immigration law.
The work stoppage was aimed at demonstrating the economic contribution of Alabama’s Hispanic immigrants. It was unclear exactly how widespread the protests were, but a poultry company spokesman said officials were reporting unusually high absences at plants in northeast Alabama, where much of the state’s chicken industry is based.
In the northeast Alabama town of Albertville, numerous Hispanic-owned businesses along Main Street had the lights off and signs that said they wouldn’t be open. Mexican restaurants, a bank that caters to Hispanics, small grocery stores and supermarkets were all shuttered.
“We closed because we need to open the eyes of the people who are operating this state,” said Contreras, originally from the Dominican Republic and a U.S. citizen. “It’s an example of if the law pushes too much, what will happen.”
Since a federal judge upheld much of the law two weeks ago, many frightened Hispanics have hid in their homes or fled Alabama. Schools have reported high absentee rates among Hispanic students, and officials said even more students were absent Wednesday, apparently because of the protest.
The Obama administration is among the critics of the new law and asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to at least temporarily block enforcement, arguing in court documents the statute oversteps the state’s authority. It’s not clear when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule on the administration’s request for a preliminary injunction.
Not far from Contreras’ businesses, the parking lot was virtually empty at a Wayne Farms poultry plant that employs about 850 people. Company spokesman Frank Singleton said other plants were also reporting unusually high absences.
The protests were being promoted partly through Facebook and other social media, as well as a Spanish-language radio station in Birmingham. Supporters say they want to show the economic impact of Hispanic people in Alabama and demonstrate solidarity in opposition to the law.
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