Many Trenton businesses close as part of nationwide Day Without Immigrants
Silence woke me up yesterday.
What a strange sensation to miss the sound of car horns offered before a rooster crowed and ahead of the first streak of sunlight.
The “A Day Without Immigrants” or “Un Dia Sin Immigrantes” movement delivered a stunning stillness to life in Trenton yesterday as many immigrant workers stayed home to showcase their importance to U.S. society as immigration reform hopes collide with stepped up deportation efforts.
Protesters were asked to stay home, make no purchases of food, gasoline or other items and to keep children home from school.
Trenton residents showed solidarity as bodegas, restaurants and hair salons locked doors, with business owners knowing that they would lose one day of profits.
The Tiburon Friends, Unisex and Beauty Barber Shop looked dark with barber chairs empty.
Guate Pan, one of the city’s most successful bakeries, closed several businesses.
Even small stores such as M&R Supermarket on Genesee St and Chestnut Ave. as well as Fiallo’s Produce Store on South Broad St. near Elm St., closed.
Pura Vida, a popular Costa Rican restaurant in Chambersburg and LaParilla, a Guatemalan eatery on Hamilton Ave., closed.
Elmer Sandoval, who arrived in Trenton via Guatemala then California in 1985, expressed frustration and gratitude.
“You drive around Trenton and the streets are so quiet,” Sandoval said.
“I’m not surprised about how many people responded. We are a well connected Latno community that knows that so much is at stake. We have people living here who are afraid to go out, afraid to open their front door.”
Sandoval said he knows how life is without papers.
“Or a driver’s license. I mean, many people just want to get from home to work. Even offering undocumented residents a driver’s license would change lives,” Sandoval said.
“We have been left in a situation that forces us to take risks. Now, I have no problem with people who commit crimes being sent back home but hardworking people should be given an opportunity to stay.”
President Donald Trump promised an immediate response to undocumented immigrants, including the collection of illegals connected to serious crimes on U.S. soil.
The New Jersey Assembly passed two bills that oppose President Trump’s initiatives on immigration and a Muslim travel ban.
Assembly members Liz Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) and Reed Gusciora (DMercer Hunterdon) lent their voices to fight any attempt by Trump to target undocumented students who gained a safe haven under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals offered by President Barack Obama.
Obama initiated a DACA immigration agenda that allowed undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
Muoio identified the U.S. as a “nation founded, built ad inhabited by descendants of many nations and followers of many religions” while Gusciora rallied for reality.
“Keeping quiet or pretending this isn’t happening is not an option,” Gusciora warned.
“Those who stand with President Trump or remain quiet at this moment will be judged by history, and it will be a harsh judgment.”
Adriana Abizadeh, executive director for Trenton’s Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, closed her organization’s Chambers St. Welcome House/Casa de Bienvenida.
Abizadeh gushed satisfaction and pride after learning that many businesses closed and workers stayed home.
“That’s news that makes me so happy,” Abizadeh, who just months ago replaced community activist Maria Juega as LALDEF executive director, said.
“I don’t think we expected 100 percent support but to see how many people stood together? That’s wonderful.”
“We wanted people to know that our existence and input matters. A lot of people do not understand the positive impact immigrants make on a daily basis. We work hard. We pay taxes.
“Some people say that they don’t want to see us and on this day they get to understand what it would be like, what it would feel like if we were not here. The truth is that we count.”
Abizadeh’s LALDEF outreach empowers individuals with valuable resources, legal assistance, language education, college prep, mentoring and offers comfort to immigrants involved in daily struggles.
A Day Without Immigrants produced some negative responses as several employers promised punishment for employees who honored the peaceful strike.
“We expected some criticism but what matters is that on this day, many people stood together and took action,” Sandoval said.
“We didn’t need screaming or shouting, just making a promise to stand together.”
By day’s end, their solemn message for immigration reform and opportunity, rang loudly clearly.
Trentini’s, a popular restaurant in Roebling Market, honored the strike.