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Day Without Immigrants: Hundreds of local students stay home, 'very high' absent rate

Immigrants across the country were expected to stay home from school and work on Thursday to show how critical they are to the U.S. economy and way of life. And in the Portland area, it looks like many have followed up with action.

The Hillsboro School District reported a "very high absence rate" Thursday, and a school official told KATU News there were at least several hundred students who didn't show up for class. A statement from a district official said across just three of its elementary schools, there were more than 600 absences.

Portland Public Schools said they had about 500 students absent from Kindergarten through 5th grade.

Organizers used social media and word of mouth to plan "A Day Without Immigrants" actions nationwide in response to President Donald Trump, whose administration has pledged to increase the deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally. Trump campaigned on building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and blamed high unemployment on immigration. As president, he's called for a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming into the U.S.

In Portland, Maria Garcia, owner of Revolución Coffee Shop downtown, closed her business to stand in solidarity with her community. Garcia was born in Mexico City, Mexico and has lived in the United States for 20 years.

“I think it is important to make our voice loud, and omit participating in social activities, investing our money and certain things just to create that awareness that, hey, we are a big group of people, we need respect, we want respect, and we deserve it,” Garcia said.

  • Read more from Garcia here.

Multiple food cart pods at Portland Mercado had signs taped up in solidarity for the Day Without Immigrants, written in both English and Spanish.

With a twist on the national call-to-action, the owner of Mother's Bistro & Bar in Portland conferred with her employees and decided to stay open -- with a pledge to match immigrant employee earnings and donate them to a relevant cause.

“I decided that what I can do is donate. I will match whatever any of my immigrant employees make," said Lisa Schroeder, chef and owner at Mother's Bistro & Bar. "I will match those dollars, and I’m going to give it to a cause that helps immigrants."

  • Read more from Schroeder here.

A viewer in Boardman, Ore., sent the newsroom a photo from a student of an empty bus on her way into school, usually packed with students.

"We have such a high Hispanic population that it is extremely empty with none of them attending," said the viewer, who was in correspondence with KATU News early Thursday morning.

In Hillsboro, the absences were highest for the younger age groups. A district spokesperson said exclusion day only contributed to 60 absences across all of their schools.

"We are down several hundred students today, most notably at the elementary school level," said Beth Graser, a spokesperson for the distract. "I know of 640 absences just at three elementary schools alone. That’s not to say all of them are Latino students, several of those are likely legitimately ill or have other reasons for being absent, but that is a very high absentee rate for a single day."

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