Day Without Immigrants speaks through silence in Moline’s Floreciente Neighborhood

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MOLINE, Illinois — America's dependence on foreign-born workers gets the spotlight on February 16, 2017. First-generation American Ruben Estrada, whose parents emigrated from Guatemala, is in for a surprise.

Along Railroad Avenue, popular eatery El Mexicano closed for the day. It's part of a national Day Without Immigrants taking place across the country.

"They're making a stand," said customer Clifton VanWinkle.  "Good for them."

In places like Moline's Floreciente Neighborhood, immigrants hope to make a powerful statement about their role in American life. Along 4th Avenue, the loudest sound comes from passing traffic. It's quiet because several businesses closed for the day to show support.

It's a sign of the times outside Adela's Beauty Salon, where a message in English and Spanish explains the one-day closure.

"I agree with it," Estrada said.

A hand-lettered sign is up at Carmen's Jewelry Store.  The scene repeats at the laundromat and at Imperial Grocery.  Each letter symbolizes a nation of immigrants.

"That's how it was built, from immigrants," said Frank Sandoval, 83.

Sandoval, who grew up on Hero Street in Silvis, says this day is a response to President Trump's call for a wall and immigration restrictions.

"He says to keep out the bad," Sandoval continued.  "How does he know who the bad is?"

Some of the Moline merchants rallied in Des Moines with other communities on Thursday. Struggling families were willing to give up a day's pay to join the effort.

"They're working minimum wage, no benefits," Estrada said.  "You call a day off, or you get fired.  That would just turn things around."

At El Mexicano, there's no lunch on Thursday for Ruben Estrada - just food for thought.

"Man, I hope it just gets better," he concluded.

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