Across the nation, shops and restaurants closed in solidarity Thursday while others braced for a possible shutdown for lack of enough employees as a “Day Without Immigrants” unfolded to underscore how much migrants form the lifeblood of the country’s economy and social structure.
Immigrants in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Austin, Texas, and other major U.S. cities planned to stay home from work and school as part of a strike. Demonstrators also planned a march to the White House at noon.
Coming on the heels of roundups of undocumented immigrants nationwide, organizers urged legal residents as well as undocumented ones to participate in the boycott in response to President Trump’s crackdown on immigration. Among the White House actions rankling protesters are plans to build a border wall, install a temporary immigration ban on nationals from certain Muslim-majority nations, boost patrol agents to curb illegal immigration and strip federal funding from sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration agents.
“From doctors to dishwashers, immigrants are integral to daily life in the U.S.,” tweeted Janet Murguia, president and CEO of National Council of La Raza, as she praised Spanish-American Chef Jose Andrés’ decision to close his Washington, D.C., restaurants Thursday. David Suro, owner of Tequilas Restaurant in Philadelphia and a Mexican immigrant, said he also planned to participate.
Andrés said he decided to close after a few hundred of his employees told him they weren’t coming to work Thursday. They asked for his support and got it.
“We are all one,” he said. “We should not be fighting among each other, we should all be working together to keep moving the country forward.”
Andrés faces a lawsuit from Trump after pulling out of a restaurant deal at Trump’s new Washington, D.C., hotel over offensive comments the then-presidential candidate made about Mexican immigrants.
The Sweetgreen salad chain shuttered 18 stores in the Washington area in support of the demonstration. “Our team members are the face of the brand, from the front lines to our kitchen — they’re the backbone of this company and what makes Sweetgreen special,” said co-founders Jonathan Neman, Nicolas Jammet and Nathaniel Ru. “And that’s why we stand with them, today and every day.”
Beauty shops, restaurants and bodegas in Passaic, N.J., closed Thursday as part of the nationwide strike. On Monroe Street, a hub for Mexican-owned businesses, pedestrian traffic was light around 10:30 a.m., a time when the sidewalks are usually crowded with customers.
The lack of people persuaded Leticia Velasquez of Passaic to keep the locks on the doors of her business. Velasquez, a legal resident who came from Mexico years ago, said many of her customers were undocumented and it was a way of supporting them.
“I saw that everything was closed and we have to be in solidarity,” Velasquez said. “There’s usually so many people and today nothing.”
In the seaside resort of Asbury Park, N.J., Hector Manny, 33, recalled how he worked 14-hour days, six days a week in restaurants when he came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 16.
“We will all participate so that the government can see how much money they can lose if we don’t buy anything from the store, if we don’t buy gas, if we don’t buy food, if we don’t go to work,” said Manny, a sous chef at Brickwall Tavern in the New Jersey seaside resort. “If we stop for one day,” Manny told the Asbury Park Press.
In Lakewood, Colo., Lowell Faulkner, owner of At Your Service Plumbing, told KDVR-TV he would close, even though it will cost him a couple thousand dollars.
“To me it’s worth it to stand behind them,” he says, noting that he and his wife have hired immigrants from eight countries over the years and trained them all to be plumbers.
“They’re honest. They show up to work every day,” he says. “You’ve got to judge people by the content of their heart, not the color of their skin.”
Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, said many restaurant owners she represents were supporting immigrant employees who wished to strike and would call in additional workers to fill the gap.
In Nashville, Amqui Elementary was almost devoid of its immigrant students. Kim Dean’s 3rd grade English language learner reading classroom contained just six students. Lisa Anderson’s 3rd grade English language learning math classroom had nine students. Between the two classes, over 40 students were missing. Other schools throughout the district reported seeing similar dips in its immigrant populations, including in East and South Nashville.
“We heard rumblings of it yesterday,” Dean said. “There has been a persistent fear about what if their parents disappear (due to Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweeps). Several have been talking about running away if they are placed in foster homes. They shouldn’t have to worry about that, they are only 8 and 9. They are babies.”
Elsewhere in the country:
— The Davis Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts said it would remove or shroud all artwork created or provided by immigrants through Feb. 21.
— In New Mexico, the state with the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation, school officials worried hundreds of students would stay home Thursday.
“We respectfully ask all parents to acknowledge that students need to be in class every day to benefit from the education they are guaranteed and to avoid falling behind in school and life,” principals with the Albuquerque Public Schools wrote in a letter to parents. Students who take part in the protest will receive an unexcused absence, Albuquerque school officials said.
— In Phoenix, acclaimed chef Silvana Salcido Esparza said she will close three of her Phoenix restaurants for the day: Barrio Cafe, Barrio Urbano and Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva.
“You know what, my restaurants don’t function without immigrants. That starts in the field, people who pick our food, the processing plants, the slaughterhouse, I could go on,” she said Wednesday, hours after she was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef — Southwest for the fifth time.
— In Atlanta, Farm Burger closed its three restaurants in Decatur, Buckhead and Dunwoody in solidarity with the protest.
“This is an opportunity to respect and support many of our employees’ hopes to use the day in protest of current government policies and treatment of immigrants,” the company said in a statement. “Farm Burger is thankful and indebted for the dedicated work from our immigrant staff over the years, be it in our kitchens, service or in the fields with our farmers.”
Source: USA TODAY