Mexicans across the country, legal, and illegal, held rallies Monday in an effort to draw attention to their contributions to the U.S. economy.
Monday night in Grand Rapids and Holland, hundreds gathered in Garfield Park and Kollen Park for a prayer vigil. They are opposed to legislation that could send illegal immigrants back to Mexico.
Earlier in the day some local latinos also chose to take part in the nationwide protest.
Margarita's Mexican restaurant in Holland was named for the woman working the grill, who along with her husband Jose, immigrated to the U.S. years ago. They've made a life for themselves, and their children, and worry a stricter policy on immigration would hurt people trying to follow in their footsteps.
"I don't think the laws they want to pass would be fair," Jose Salinas says.
Those laws would make illegal immigration a felony and clamp down on many of the services those immigrants get. The pending legislation in the U.S. Congress sparked the protest called "A Day Without Immigrants," asking people to stay out of work and close businesses.
Margaritas needed to stay open to pay the bills, but allowed three employees to take the day off, because they support the cause.
"The political people have to realize that we're all immigrants not just Mexicans, there are immigrants all over," Salinas says.
Maria Vargas works at the deli meat company Boar's Head, she stayed home to show solidarity with those who like her dad, came here illegally but have raised a family and participated in the American way for years.
"He brought us here for a better life and better education," Vargas says.
Because her father got amnesty, he was able to bring Maria and the rest of the family over legally. Something she thinks should be available again.
"I just want to support these people because my dad was just like one of them," says Maria.
People skipped work, and businesses closed, but parents also kept their children home. The Holland Public Schools says they experienced higher than average absenteeism.
All in an effort to show America, that the country would be different if immigrants were not part of the equation. Whether that effort worked remains to be seen
There have been a lot of rallies and protests, the way to really gauge their effectiveness is by looking at the legislation that may pass congress.
If it's changed, the demonstrations may have worked, if not, the opposition to illegal immigration may have been more powerful than it seemed publicly.
We will have continuing coverage on the immigration rallies tonight on WZZM 13 News at 11pm