Getting a chicken fried steak during the lunch hour at his favorite Kyle area restaurant is the norm for San Marcos resident Jesse Gomez.
On Thursday, however, Garza was surprised to discover the unfamiliar scene of no cars in the drive-thru or the parking lot.
Such was the scene at several area businesses that took part in the Day Without an Immigrant protest.
The protest, according to a report from National Public Radio (NPR), was done in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda, which includes policies on immigration from Mexico.
A sign posted on the door of one area business regarding the event called for “undocumented, residents, citizens and immigrants from all over the world” to not go to work, school, buy anything or open their business for one day.
One sign posted at another area restaurant, which was in both English and Spanish, said they “stand together with our Latino Community” as the reason for closing.
“We are not a Race of Criminals, we are a Race of hard working people that work every day to serve you the best experience every time [sic],” the sign read.
The sign went on to apologize to loyal customers for any inconvenience and that as a family business “it is important that our families stay together.”
Major businesses affected by the protest were McDonald’s in Buda and in Kyle. A sign posted on the door of the Buda location indicated the lobby was closed for the day, but the drive-thru was open.
One employee said their restaurant did not have enough staff to open the lobby. They did not, however, specify why the restaurant was short staffed.
Many other businesses, however, opted to stay open.
“We have a business to run, regardless of what race we are,” Ruby Hernandez, manager of Garcia’s restaurant in Buda said. “If someone didn’t want to come to work today, that’s okay with us, but we all have bills to pay, so that’s why we stayed open.”
Tim Savoy, Hays CISD public information officer, said the protest may have contributed to a dip in attendance figures in the Hays school district.
According to Savoy, 82 percent of the student population was in class Tuesday, which was a 13 percent drop from the day previous. Less than half of the students at Hemphill Elementary were in school Thursday.
On Feb. 16, 2016, just one year ago, roughly 94 percent of students were in class.
Savoy said the district understands that different issues can “compel people to exercise constitutional rights to free speech,” which he said the district supports.
However, the district also wants to preserve a disruption free environment. In addition, the district also has a policy prohibiting any political activity during the school day.
“We’re operating as business as usual, providing education to those who came to school today, but for those who didn’t … if they’re passionate enough to take action, we understand that as well,” Savoy said.
But he understood there is a “considerable amount of concern” from area families based on could be taking place in Austin.
In the past week, reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducting sweeps in Austin and Travis County were being spread across social media.
In a statement on social media, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) said he was informed ICE launched a “targeted operation in South and Central Texas as part of Operation Cross Check.”
Castro added that he planned to clarify with ICE if the individuals are dangerous to the community.
A total of 51 foreign nationals were arrested in Austin in the past week, with one official saying 75 percent of those were convicted of crimes such as homicide and aggravated sexual abuse, according to a KXAN report.
Savoy said the situation in Travis County is different than in Hays County, but what is taking place there is still a concern for parents.
“We have a lot of parents that go in to shop and work in Austin,” Savoy said. “What’s going on in Travis County has a residual affect on the school district.”
Dana Cleveland, a Kyle resident, said she had worked with foreign nationals as a truck driver and that “they’re great people. They’re trying to make a better life.”
However, she didn’t think ICE was trying to hurt people who are “doing anything they shouldn’t be doing.”
“As long as you’re not hurting anyone or taking anything from anybody, I don’t think they’re looking for you,” she said. “I think they’re looking for people who are hurting our country.”
Gomez said he believed the economy hurts when it comes to the protest and that protesters are angry and are lashing out at the president. However, he said foreign nationals are “overlooked.”
“A lot of the nation was built on someone’s back and immigrants, they’ve taken the brunt of the load,” he said. “They’re there and it’s a way of them speaking back.”
One Kyle resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said he supported businesses who protested and that they’re bringing awareness to the situation.
While the resident said he may not feel as strongly as others, the resident said he understands the tension felt by many in the community.
He ultimately hopes the protest remains peaceful.
“If they have their green cards, they aren’t committing crimes, they’re hard working people, doing the right thing and getting a slice of the American Pie, brother, don’t stress yourself out over drama that doesn’t classify you,” the resident said.