Boycott didn’t gain much traction in Park City
Snyderville resident Johana Machado forgot Monday that many Latinos in town had gone to Salt Lake City to rally in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"I didn’t know that this was closed today," Machado said after finding the doors at a Mexican market in Park City locked Monday afternoon.
Across the street, the owner of the popular Mexican cafe, El Chubasco, also closed his doors to allow employees to demonstrate at the Capitol.
But Machado, who is from Uruguay and works at a Basin convenience store, said she didn’t consider joining thousands of people Monday to protest against U.S. immigration policies.
"People said, why did I work today?" she said. "I need to work, I need money."
But in a mountain town like Park City, where roughly 20 percent of the population is Latino, many business owners didn’t feel any impact from the boycott called for Monday by Hispanic leaders around the country.
However, Machado claims Americans should appreciate the contributions Latino workers provide the economy, adding, "they work hard for six or seven dollars an hour."
La Casita Mexican restaurant in Park City was closed Monday so his employees could participate in the rallies, said Alberto Martinez, who owns the Main Street establishment.
"I am (a legal) immigrant," Martinez said Tuesday recalling a time he washed dishes when he arrived in America in the 1990s. "And we as owners of businesses recognized that we need some change in the law. We closed in support of the immigrants trying to make change."
According to Martinez, "it would be very difficult to survive as a business without [immigrants]."
Termed "A Day Without Immigrants" by many pro-immigration groups, none of the handful of Latinos employed at Dan’s Super Market in Park City asked for May 1 off to demonstrate, store director Mike Holm said.
"If they wanted it, they were free to ask for it off," he said, adding, "the ones that are legal, they’re kind of pissed because they had to go through the hard thing to get their legal status."
"I don’t think I have any illegals here," Holm continued.
Meanwhile, customers at Dan’s weren’t deterred by talk of a boycott, he said.
"It didn’t affect me at all," Holm said. "I thought I might see a few less (customers) or business would be down a little, but it was about normal."
As commerce reportedly dipped in some major American cities Monday, the quiet shoulder season the months between winter and summer when hordes of visitors aren’t descending on Park City made it easy for some people to miss work.
"The date was chosen as a national holiday, but absolutely it is easier in the shoulder season. If there was a walkout like that on Christmas Eve you would have fewer employers willing to step aside and say, ‘take the day off,’" said Shelley Weiss, who advocates for Latinos living in Summit County.
Recent publicity about federal immigration agents raiding a business in Tooele had her concerned that many people wouldn’t participate in the rally, Weiss said.
"What I’m really excited about is the business community stepping up to this," she said, adding, "hopefully, in true Park City style, both sides stepped forward a little bit."
With school dismissed Monday in the Park City School District because of an unused snow day, it was also easier for students to participate in rally.
"Probably they did," said Javier Villalba, who works with Latino students at Treasure Mountain International School.
Though, signs posted on the doors of several restaurants in town indicated that some businesses were closed Monday for renovations. Among those who closed so employees could attend the downtown march were the Bill White Restaurant Group, which operates several eateries in Park City, and Wasatch Brew Pub.
Greg Schirf, who started the brewery on Main Street, employs about 30 Latino immigrants.
"A lot of them have been with us for 10 or more years. We appreciate them and we want to reciprocate their loyalty," Schirf said Tuesday. "The awareness of the fact that we’ve got an immigration issue that needs to be addressed was fostered by this day without Latinos."
Many immigrants pay taxes and Social Security, he added.
"This is all about respect. They just feel that they would like to be recognized by the rest of their co-workers and the rest of the country as equals," Schirf said. "They would like to be able to obtain the security of legalized immigration."
As Congress debates stalled immigration reforms, many immigrants living in the United States illegally are afraid lawmakers will pass legislation that could turn an estimated 12 million people into felons overnight.
"It’s hard to invest back in your community, and even the language, if you don’t have the security of being here legally," Schirf said. "It’s time this country dealt with the fact that there are 12 million people here contributing to the economy nobody says, ‘thank you very much.’"
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.