"Si se puede! Si se puede!" The crowd of more than a thousand filled the front lawn of Iglesia Nueva Direccion on Winchester. They chanted, with hands to the sky, the pro-immigration cry, "Yes we can!"
"We want to be able to make sure that those that can engage in the process of becoming members of our community can do so," said Latino Memphis Executive Director Jose Velasquez, PhD.
Meanwhile, around town supermarkets, auto shops and convenience stores shut their doors to support the national immigration boycott. People of different races and cultures attended Monday's Day of Civic Engagement rally. They held flags and "I Am American" banners, clasped hands in prayer, and sang the "star Spangled Banner."
One of the main goals there today was to mobilize a Latino voter registration drive to urge the Latino community to exercise influence over government. "Maybe the situation nationwide is pushing us out of our comfort zone and requiring us to take responsibility," Velasquez said.
The Latino community hopes the demonstration sends a clear message that their more than $1 billion economic impact on Memphis and Shelby County does not go unnoticed.
A University of Memphis study shows some of the top consumer expenditures of Memphis latinos:
Housing: $75 Million
Transportation: $69 Million
Utilities and Other Household Items: $50 Million