QUIET PROTEST

Many Tren­ton busi­nesses close as part of na­tion­wide Day With­out Im­mi­grants

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - L.A. Parker Colum­nist L.A. Parker is a Tren­to­nian colum­nist. Reach him at la­parker@tren­to­nian.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter@ la­parker6.

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.

PHO­TOS BY L.A. PARKER - THE TREN­TO­NIAN

Tren­tini’s, a pop­u­lar restau­rant in Roe­bling Mar­ket, hon­ored the strike.

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