‘Day Without Im­mi­grants’ protest closes many U.S. restau­rants

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

The heart of Philadelphia’s Ital­ian Mar­ket was un­com­monly quiet. Fine restau­rants in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal and New York closed for the day. Gro­cery stores, food trucks, cof­fee shops and taco joints in places like Chicago, Los An­ge­les and Bos­ton shut down.

Im­mi­grants around the U.S. stayed home from work and school Thurs­day to demon­strate how im­por­tant they are to Amer­ica’s econ­omy and way of life, and many busi­nesses closed in sol­i­dar­ity, in a na­tion­wide protest called A Day Without Im­mi­grants.

The boy­cott was aimed squarely at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ef­forts to crack down on im­mi­gra­tion, le­gal and il­le­gal, by such means as a wall at the Mex­i­can bor­der. Or­ga­niz­ers said they ex­pected thou­sands to par­tic­i­pate or oth­er­wise show their sup­port.

The protest even reached into the U.S. Capi­tol, where a Se­nate cof­fee shop was among the eater­ies that were closed as em­ploy­ees did not show up at work.

The day’s ac­tiv­i­ties also in­cluded ral­lies in sev­eral cities.

Marcela Ar­daya-Var­gas, who is from Bo­livia and now lives in Falls Church, Vir­ginia, pulled her son out of school to take him to a Day Without Im­mi­grants march in Washington.

“When he asked why he wasn’t go­ing to school, I told him be­cause to­day he was go­ing to learn about im­mi­gra­tion,” she said, adding: “Our job as cit­i­zens is to unite with our broth­ers and sis­ters.”

Or­ga­niz­ers ap­pealed to im­mi­grants from all walks of life to take part, but the ef­fects were felt most strongly in the res­tau­rant in­dus­try, which has long been a first step up the eco­nomic lad­der for new­com­ers to Amer­ica with its many jobs for cooks, dish­wash­ers and servers.

Ex­pen­sive restau­rants and fast-food joints alike closed across the coun­try. Sushi bars, Brazil­ian steak­houses, Mex­i­can eater­ies and Thai and Ital­ian restau­rants turned away lunchtime cus­tomers.

On Ninth Street in South Philadelphia’s Ital­ian Mar­ket, it was so quiet in the morn­ing that Rani Va­sudeva thought it might be Mon­day, when many of the busi­nesses on the nor­mally bustling stretch are closed.

Pro­duce stands and other stalls along “Calle Nueve” — as 9th Street is more com­monly known for its abun­dance of Mex­i­can-owned busi­nesses — stood empty, leav­ing cus­tomers to look else­where for fresh meat, bread, fruits and veg­eta­bles.

“It’s ac­tu­ally very sad,” said Va­sudeva, a 38-year-old pro­fes­sor at Tem­ple Univer­sity. “You re­al­ize the im­pact the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity has. We need each other for our daily lives.”

Since the end of 2007, the num­ber of for­eign-born work­ers em­ployed in the U.S. has climbed by nearly 3.1 mil­lion to 25.9 mil­lion; they ac­count for 56 per cent of the in­crease in U.S. em­ploy­ment over that pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the La­bor Depart­ment.

The for­eign-born — who in­clude Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, green­card hold­ers and those work­ing without le­gal au­tho­riza­tion — tend to be younger and to take jobs in fields that have been grow­ing fastest, in­clud­ing restau­rants, ho­tels and stores.

Roughly 12 mil­lion peo­ple are em­ployed in the res­tau­rant in­dus­try, and im­mi­grants make up the ma­jor­ity — up to 70 per cent in places like New York and Chicago, ac­cord­ing to the Res­tau­rant Op­por­tu­ni­ties Cen­ters United, which works to im­prove work­ing con­di­tions. An es­ti­mated 1.3 mil­lion in the in­dus­try are im­mi­grants liv­ing in the U.S. il­le­gally, the group said.


Peo­ple march down Broad­way Av­enue in Pitts­burgh’s Beechview Ave. Thurs­day protest­ing the re­cent crack­downs on im­mi­grants or­dered by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing a “Day Without Im­mi­grants” protest.

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