ALBERTVILLE, Ala. — At least a half-dozen poultry plants shut down or scaled back operations Wednesday and many other businesses closed as Hispanics in Alabama skipped work to protest the state's toughest-in-the-nation immigration law.
The work stoppage was aimed at demonstrating the economic contribution of Alabama's Hispanic immigrants. It was unclear exactly how widespread the protests were, but a poultry company spokesman said officials were reporting unusually high absences at plants in northeast Alabama, where much of the state's chicken industry is based.
The protests Wednesday were being promoted partly through Facebook and other social media, as well as a Spanish-language radio station in Birmingham.
In the northeast Alabama town of Albertville, numerous Hispanic-owned businesses along Main Street had their lights off and signs that said they wouldn't be open. Mexican restaurants, a bank that caters to Hispanics, small grocery stores and supermarkets were all shuttered.
Jose Contreras owns a restaurant and store on Main Street. He said he was losing about $2,500 in revenue by shutting down.
"We closed because we need to open the eyes of the people who are operating this state," said Contreras, originally from the Dominican Republic and a U.S. citizen.
Republican supporters say Alabama's strict new immigration law is intended to force illegal workers out of jobs and help legal residents find work in a state suffering from high unemployment. The law allows police to detain people indefinitely if they are suspected of being in the country illegally and requires schools to check the status of new students when they enroll.
There are an estimated 185,000 Hispanics in Alabama.