Immigrants across Chicago heeded a call to skip work and school Thursday to demonstrate the economic power of a community that has been shaken by the Trump administration’s hard-line stance on immigration.

Numerous businesses — including restaurants, dental offices, construction sites and grocery stores — either closed for the day or let employees take the day off to support A Day Without Immigrants, a loosely organized protest in several cities across the country that could represent the first salvo in a long fight. High-profile restaurants including The Berghoff and four establishments owned by Chicago chef Rick Bayless were among those that closed.

“This is to make them hear us,” said Jose Ruiz, 38, at a pro-immigrant rally at Union Park. Ruiz, who moved to Chicago from Mexico 20 years ago, said his employer, Pizza Nova, closed for the day after multiple workers asked to join the protest. He brought his 8-year-old daughter, Jessica, who took the day off from school.

Thursday’s action sent “a clear message that the immigrant community is ready to use its labor and consumer power to fight and begin a new chapter in the immigrant rights movement,” said a statement from Movimiento Cosecha, a national immigrant rights advocacy group that plans a similar one-day action May 1 as well as a seven-day Week Without Immigrants at a later date.

He added, “Missing having an office or school cleaned for one day is probably not a big deal. But it’s a way of asserting in the current world that you probably can’t function very well without us.”

The rally at Union Park on Thursday, organized by the worker’s center Arise Chicago, drew about 1,000 people, police on the scene estimated. Attendees waving American and some Mexican flags chanted “U-S-A, U-S-A” and held signs with slogans such as “Immigrants Make America Great.”

Octavio Herrera, 27, a drywall taper at a downtown construction site, said he came to support “equality for everybody” and stand for unions and the middle class. He and half a dozen co-workers had been given time off without pay for the protest by their boss.

Herrera shrugged at missing a day’s wages.

“It’s not going to make us richer or poorer,” he said.

Not everyone believed the boycott to be an effective use of resources. Jaime di Paulo, executive director of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce, said he advised business owners not to close, saying it would only hurt the community, where the vast majority of stores and customers are Hispanic.

At Hopleaf in Andersonville, which didn’t close for the day, owner Michael Roper said that he is nervous for his immigrant workers and feared calling attention to them or depriving them of work.

“Even if we paid them, they’re not going to get tips,” said Roper, who intends to continue raising money for causes like the American Civil Liberties Union. “I’m not afraid to go on the front lines myself, but they have families to support.”

Samantha Bomkamp and Robert Channick contributed to this report.

aelejalderuiz@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @alexiaer

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