Eater­ies, schools shut as im­mi­grants protest

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - ER­RIN HAINES WHACK

PHILADEL­PHIA — Im­mi­grants across the U. S. stayed home from work and school Thurs­day to demon­strate their im­por­tance to the coun­try’s econ­omy 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 step up de­por­ta­tions, build a wall at the Mex­i­can bor­der and close the nation’s doors to many trav­el­ers.

Or­ga­niz­ers said they ex­pected thou­sands of peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate or oth­er­wise show sup­port.

“I fear ev­ery day whether I am go­ing to make it back home. I don’t know if my mom will make it home,” said Hes­sel Duarte, a 17- year- old Hon­duras na­tive who lives in Austin, Texas, with his fam­ily and skipped class at his high school to take part in one of sev­eral ral­lies held around the coun­try.

Duarte said he ar­rived in the U. S. at age 5 to es­cape gang vi­o­lence.

The protest 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.

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 the U. S. with its many jobs for cooks, dish­wash­ers and servers.

Res­tau­rant own­ers with im­mi­grant roots of their own were among those act­ing in sol­i­dar­ity with work­ers.

Ex­pen­sive res­tau­rants and fast- food joints alike closed,

some per­haps be­cause they had no choice, oth­ers be­cause of what they said was sym­pa­thy for their im­mi­grant em­ploy­ees.

Sushi bars, Brazil­ian steak­houses, Mex­i­can eater­ies and Thai and Ital­ian res­tau­rants all turned away lunchtime cus­tomers.

“The re­ally im­por­tant dy­namic to note is this is not an­tag­o­nis­tic, em­ployee-against- em­ployer,” said Janet Mur­guia, pres­i­dent of the His­panic- rights group Na­tional Coun­cil of La Raza. “This is em­ploy­ers and work­ers stand­ing to­gether, not in con­flict.”

She added, “Busi­nesses can­not func­tion with­out im­mi­grant work­ers to­day.”

At a White House news con­fer­ence held as the lunch­hour protests un­folded, Trump boasted of his bor­der se­cu­rity mea­sures and im­mi­gra­tion ar­rests of hun­dreds of peo­ple in the past week, say­ing, “We are sav­ing lives ev­ery sin­gle day.”

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, and they ac­count for 56 per­cent of the in­crease in U. S. em­ploy­ment over that pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the La­bor Depart­ment.

Roughly 12 mil­lion peo­ple are em­ployed in the res­tau­rant in­dus­try, and im­mi­grants make up the ma­jor­ity — up to 70 per­cent in places such as 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 il­le­gal aliens, the group said.

Some peo­ple who skipped work will lose a day’s pay or per­haps even their jobs. But or­ga­niz­ers and par­tic­i­pants ar­gued that the cause was worth it.

Some schools and day care cen­ters also were closed, with teach­ers re­port­ing on so­cial me­dia about low at­ten­dance num­bers.

“What a pow­er­ful mes­sage! My class­room is empty!” a mid­dle- school teacher in Min­nesota tweeted.

Marcela Ar­daya- Var­gas, who is from Bo­livia and now lives in Falls Church, Va., pulled her son out of school to take him to a 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.”

“The re­ally im­por­tant dy­namic to note is this is not an­tag­o­nis­tic, em­ployee-against-em­ployer.” — Janet Mur­guia, pres­i­dent of the His­panic-rights group Na­tional Coun­cil of La Raza

AP/ CHARLES REX ARBOGAST

More than 1,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pate in a Chicago march as protests around the coun­try Thurs­day took aim at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ef­forts to crack down on im­mi­gra­tion.

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