DANBURY, Conn. -- As part of “A Day Without Immigrants,” a national strike in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, dozens of business owners in downtown Danbury are closing their doors on Thursday.
They are participating in this effort to show how vital immigrants are to the economy and community in which they live.
One of them is Pedro Coehlo, who owns two Danbury bakeries -- both named Padaminas on Newtown Road and on Main Street — and a laundromat, called Next Door Laundry, on Newtown Road.
At first, Coehlo said that he was opposing to closing for a day because he knew he would lose a lot of business.
“Since the weather is better today, a total of about 400 customers would have come into my bakeries today,” he said.
But he distributed a survey to his employees and about half were in favor of the idea of closing.
“At the end of the day, I was the decision-maker and I decided to join the silent protest,” said Coehlo, who also owns bakeries in Westchester County, N.Y., which he is keeping open Thursday.
“All the Latino stores in in Downtown Danbury are closed today,” he added.
Although he agrees with the immigrants’ cause, Coehlo said he does understand the reason behind Trump’s policies. Many undocumented immigrants fear deportation after the administration stepped up enforcement. And many oppose Trump's effort to ban travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations and to build a wall along the Mexican border.
“We understand where the government is coming from. There are a lot of people out there with a criminal background," Coehlo said.
But Coehlo made it clear that the overwhelming majority of immigrants are hardworking, honest and good people.
He said that if it were up to him, instead of holding a national strike, he would have taken a different approach -- one that he took in 1997 in Mount Vernon, N.Y., where he lives.
“Back in 1997, we had a problem when the city tried to kick out the day laborers from one part of town. So, I went door to door to every single immigrant and told them that for the next 15 days, to save the receipt for every purchase they make — gas, clothing, food., etc. — and send me it.”
Armed with the receipts, “I went to my CPA and told him to add them up. I then went to a City Council meeting and presented to the members of the council, to show them how much money we provide to their city. I showed them that we are not bad people.”
“That’s the way I would do it today, to show how much a part of the community the immigrants are,” said Coehlo, who came to the United States from Brazil in 1985.
He has three children who are American citizens -- his oldest daughter is a teacher and his younger daughter recently graduated from Fordham University.
"I am expressing my support for this movement."