Dozens of demonstrators protested outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices at the corner of Ted Turner Drive and Garnett Street in southwest Atlanta on Thursday morning, holding signs and waving at cars that passed by.
The peaceful protest was part of the nationwide "Day Without Immigrants" that has left shops and restaurants across the nation closed in solidarity, while others were looking at a possible shutdown for lack of employees as the protest was set to underscore simply how many immigrant workers were tied to the economic infrastructure of the nation's economy.
Immigrant workers in a number of major cities planned to stay home from work and school as part of a planned strike.
Rallies across the nation included a march on the White House at midday.
ICE officials in Atlanta issued a statement late Thursday morning.
"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion peacefully without interference.
ICE is focused on removing public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation's immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges."
About 100 people took part in the protest outside of the ICE Atlanta office Thursday. Among the demonstrators was Summer Parks Lepe. She marched with her children, saying her husband was scared to come to the protest. While he's in the process of becoming a legal citizen, Lepe said right now, he's afraid to leave the house.
"It's scary for my husband to have to wake up every day and be scared to go to work, and for them [her children] to be scared that they're going to lose their father," Lepe said. "So we're fighting for that."
At the rally, people held up photos of relatives they said had been deported. Those people, the relatives said, had never been in trouble with the law.
Coming on the heels of roundups of undocumented immigrants nationwide, organizers urged legal residents as well as undocumented ones to participate in the boycott in response to President Trump's crackdown on immigration. Among the White House actions rankling protesters are plans to build a border wall, install a temporary immigration ban on nationals from certain Muslim-majority nations, boost patrol agents to curb illegal immigration and strip federal funding from sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration agents.
There is no indication as to how many people participated in the boycott nationally, but in many cities, immigrant-owned businesses placed signs in windows, informing customers that they would be closing on Thursday, and resuming normal business hours on Friday.
Locally-owned restaurant chain Farm Burger said they would be closing all three of their metro Atlanta locations -- Decatur, Buckhead and Dunwoody -- on Thursday, in solidarity with the "Day Without Immigrants" protests nationally.
"At Farm Burger, we’re proud that our restaurant family is comprised of a diverse staff with roots that spread throughout the globe. Our restaurants, like so many other businesses throughout the country, could not function or succeed without their hard work and dedication. Today, February 16th, we are closing all of our Atlanta locations in solidarity of “Day Without Immigrants.” This is an opportunity to respect and support many of our employees’ hopes to use the day in protest of current government policies and treatment of immigrants. Farm Burger is thankful and indebted for the dedicated work from our immigrant staff over the years, be it in our kitchens, service or in the fields with our farmers. Thank you for your understanding, and we’ll be open and ready to welcome you again starting Friday, February 17th."
News images of demonstrations similar to those in Atlanta could be seen from other cities from across the country, and others are expected throughout the remainder of the day.
(© 2017 WXIA)