PHOENIX - Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in at least three locations across the Phoenix area on Monday as part of a nationwide effort intended to show how vital immigrants are to the U.S. economy. Dozens linked arms in a human chain in one of the protests outside a Home Depot store. Others waved U.S. flags and chanted "Si se puede! (It can be done)."
While the demonstrations were small compared with the estimated 100,000 who marched in Phoenix on April 10, organizers said the true impact would be felt by employers across the metropolitan area because immigrants were not showing up for work.
One of the organizers, Alfredo Gutierrez, predicted 75 percent of Latino workers would stay home.
"I am certain that if you're staying at Gainey Ranch (an upscale resort and residential area) today, you're going to be making your own bed," he said. "What the heck? It's good for you. If you want your lawn mowed, you'd better do it yourself."
Jael Cisneros was one of about two dozen people at IFCO Systems, a pallet manufacturer that had more than 40 of its sites across the country raided by immigration agents recently. She said she allowed her four children to stay home from school Monday because immigrant rights are important for her family. Cisneros is a U.S. citizen married to an illegal immigrant.
"I want them to participate and to understand about civil rights. It's a big event that's going to be talked about for years," Cisneros said.
Cisneros' daughter, 11-year-old Halee, said she came to support her father.
"If he leaves, it's going to be hard for us," she said as she held a blue sign that read, "My dad is not a criminal."
Some 200 people, ranging from a mother with three small children to several elderly demonstrators, linked arms around the corner of an intersection outside a Home Depot store in northwest Phoenix.
They chanted "Si se puede, (It can be done)." Passers-by in cars and trunks honked in recognition of the gathering.
"It's very important to educate people," said Antonio Rivera, who says he is a legal immigrant who has been in the United States for 13 years. "We want to show the people, not just the government, but the white people, that we are not criminals. We come in peace. These kinds of protests are in peace. All humans are equal, no?"
The Phoenix demonstrations were part of a national effort dubbed "A Day Without an Immigrant." Latinos across the country skipped work and boycotted businesses in an effort to demonstrate the importance of immigrants to the economy.
It was unclear whether any Phoenix area businesses were affected by a shortage of employees.
IFCO's plant was operating, and two young workers who got their jobs a week after the raid sipped water as they watched the demonstration during a five-minute break.
"It's not our fault they don't have green cards," said 21-year-old Marcos Payan, who was born and raised in Arizona. "Laws are laws. They knew the consequences."
At a demonstration outside another Home Depot store, a few people gathered in opposition, voicing their support for tough immigration laws and no "amnesty" for those in the United States illegally.
Republican National Committeeman Randy Pullen believed the demonstrations would backfire.
"I think it galvanizes average Americans into believing that there's a real problem that needs to be solved," he said. "The other thing that I think is important to note is these demonstrators here today do not speak for law-abiding Latino American citizens."