Organizers for "A Day Without Immigrants" urged immigrants across the U.S. to miss work, skip class and not shop to show the country just how important they are to America's economy.
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They say the protests are in response to President Donald Trump's pledges to increase deportation, build a wall along the U.S. and Mexican border, and his proposed but legally stalled travel ban.
Marcelino Ortiz, who has three daughters, has lived in Raleigh for over 20 years.
"We are not criminals, we are not terrorists," Ortiz said. "We come to work. We are hard workers."
Telly Ortiz, one of Marcelino Ortiz's daughters, condemned the deportation raids.
"It's not right," she said. "It's not right to separate families just because they're different or don't have papers."
At Compare Foods off Roxboro Street in Durham, doors that automatically open remained shut Thursday.
A large crowd gathered outside holding signs supporting immigrants.
Crowd growing at Compare Foods... we're told a couple hundreds of businesses in the triangle are closed today for "A Day Without Immigrants" pic.twitter.com/EDDSte4IDD— Julie Wilson (@JulieABC11) February 16, 2017
"I'm disappointed because I can't shop, but I'm very proud of them trying to take a stand for what they believe is right," offered one customer.
Over in Raleigh, an immigrant support rally was held in Moore Square.
Christopher Rosario, 11 told ABC11 about his experiences.
"I've had some good experiences, but also some bad experiences," Christopher said. "People used to talk about me because I was Mexican and I used to just ignore it. We do a lot for this country and we should have the right to stay here."
Immigrants across the U.S. stayed home from work and school Thursday to demonstrate how important they are to America's economy, and many businesses closed in solidarity, in a nationwide protest called A Day Without Immigrants.
"I fear every day whether I am going to make it back home. I don't know if my mom will make it home," said Hessel Duarte, a 17-year-old native of Honduras who lives in Austin, Texas, with his family and skipped class at his high school to take part in one of several rallies held around the country. Duarte said he arrived in the U.S. at age 5 to escape gang violence.
The protest even reached into the U.S. Capitol, where a Senate coffee shop was among the eateries that were closed as employees did not show up at work.
Expensive restaurants and fast-food joints alike closed, some perhaps because they had no choice, others because of what they said was sympathy for their immigrant employees. Sushi bars, Brazilian steakhouses, Mexican eateries and Thai and Italian restaurants all turned away lunchtime customers.
"The really important dynamic to note is this is not antagonistic, employee-against-employer," said Janet Murguia, president of the Hispanic rights group National Council of La Raza. "This is employers and workers standing together, not in conflict."
She added: "Businesses cannot function without immigrant workers today."
Among the well-known establishments that closed in solidarity were three of acclaimed chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's restaurants in Phoenix; Michelin star RASA in San Francisco; and Washington's Oyamel and Jaleo, run by chef Jose Andres.
Tony and Marie Caschera, both 66, who were visiting Washington from Halfmoon, New York, thought a tapas restaurant looked interesting for lunch, but then realized the lights were off and the place was closed.
"I'm in support of what they're trying to say," said Marie Caschera, a registered Democrat, adding that immigrants are "fearful for their communities."
Her husband, a registered Republican whose family emigrated from Italy before World War II, said he supports legal immigration, but added: "I don't like illegal aliens here."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.