Im­mi­grants in

Le­gal and un­doc­u­mented res­i­dents send a mes­sage to Pres­i­dent Trump about his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies by stay­ing away from jobs and schools

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY PERRY STEIN

the District and else­where stayed home from work and school to send a mes­sage about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies.

Up­scale Wash­ing­ton res­tau­rants can­celed long-stand­ing reser­va­tions. A ubiq­ui­tous fast-ca­sual chain closed be­cause of staffing short­ages. And teach­ers posted pic­tures on so­cial me­dia of empty class­rooms.

Im­mi­grants across the coun­try went on strike Thurs­day to high­light their eco­nomic im­por­tance to a new ad­min­is­tra­tion that has taken a hard-line stance on im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

The strike, spurred by a so­cial-me­dia cam­paign, called for im­mi­grants not to go to work, to avoid spend­ing money and not send their chil­dren to school. It was in­tended to span across all busi­nesses, but it was the res­tau­rant in­dus­try — where im­mi­grants make up nearly 23 per­cent of the na­tional work­force, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the In­sti­tute for Im­mi­gra­tion Re­search at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity — that seemed most af­fected.

Scores of res­tau­rants in Wash­ing­ton, Min­neapo­lis, New York, Phoenix and be­yond shut­tered for the day. A hand­ful of day-care cen­ters and D.C. char­ter schools, in­clud­ing Next Step and Latin Amer­i­can Montes­sori Bilin­gual, closed for the day.

Le­an­dra Gon­za­lez, a teacher at Paul Pub­lic Char­ter School in the District, posted a pic­ture of her empty English as a Se­cond Lan­guage class Thurs­day. She

said stu­dents are fear­ful of what the new pres­i­dency means for them and many of the stu­dents’ par­ents asked be­fore­hand if they could par­tic­i­pate in the strike.

“I made sure the stu­dents un­der­stood that it’s not about skip­ping school and hav­ing the day off,” Gon­za­lez said. “It’s about hav­ing the school un­der­stand what it would be like if they weren’t there be­cause they bring so much cul­ture and in­ter­est­ing sto­ries.”

In the Wash­ing­ton re­gion, where about 48 per­cent of peo­ple work­ing in the res­tau­rant in­dus­try are for­eign-born, dozens of res­tau­rants closed. Food ser­vice in the U.S. Se­nate op­er­ated on re­duced hours. Sweet­green closed its 20 or so fast-ca­sual salad out­posts in the re­gion. And celebrity chef José An­drés — a Span­ish im­mi­grant who is in a le­gal bat­tle with Pres­i­dent Trump af­ter back­ing out of a con­tract to open a res­tau­rant in the District’s Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel — closed a num­ber of his res­tau­rants in the re­gion.

Other res­tau­rants opted to stay open with lim­ited menu op­tions be­cause of staffing short­ages. Many res­tau­rants in the District still paid their em­ploy­ees if they de­cided to strike, while those that of­fer paid leave had em­ploy­ees take vacation days.

“It’s im­por­tant,” said Jose Alexan­der, a bar-back at Lost So­ci­ety steak­house in the District who em­i­grated from El Sal­vador in 2004. Lost So­ci­ety closed Thurs­day, and Alexan­der said he still col­lected his pay. “It’s im­por­tant so we can help our other fam­ily mem­bers ar­rive here.”

Some res­tau­rants that stayed open ad­ver­tised that they would do­nate some of their pro­ceeds to im­mi­grant ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tions.

It was un­clear how many peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in the strike across the coun­try, but Clarissa Martínez-de-Cas­tro, deputy vice pres­i­dent at the Na­tional Coun­cil of La Raza — a na­tional Latino ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion — said the protest sent a strong mes­sage.

“In a time when the ad­min­is­tra­tion doesn’t seem to see any­thing pos­i­tive about the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity,” Martinez said, “hav­ing small-busi­ness own­ers, chefs and their work­ers chal­lenge that no­tion and give voice to the very real ways im­mi­grants con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety is very sig­nif­i­cant.”

Crit­ics of the strike said im­mi­grants who en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally should not be pro­tected. Em­ploy­ers and par­tic­i­pants of the strike did not dis­tin­guish be­tween who is in the coun­try legally and those who are un­doc­u­mented.

As part of the strike, the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion Many Lan­guages One Voice or­ga­nized a rally and march that shut down busy D.C. streets as hun­dreds marched from Wash­ing­ton’s Mount Pleas­ant neigh­bor­hood — which has a large His­panic pop­u­la­tion — to the White House. The marchers held signs and chanted in English and Span­ish, vow­ing to re­main united.

“They will not build walls in our com­mu­ni­ties,” a large sign read.

They also called on D.C. gov­ern­ment to keep raids out of the city and to pro­vide more re­sources to en­sure that the District pro­tects un­doc­u­mented res­i­dents. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has vowed that Wash­ing­ton will re­main a sanc­tu­ary city.

Or­ga­niz­ers of the protests hailed the turnout as a suc­cess and hoped Trump rec­og­nized the eco­nomic im­pact of the boy­cott.

“We know that the pres­i­dent speaks about im­mi­grants and peo­ple of color like they’re dis­pos­able,” said Ray Jose, youth jus­tice co­or­di­na­tor at Many Lan­guages One Voice. “Im­mi­grants are the back­bone of this coun­try, and Don­ald Trump needs to learn that.”

Hec­tor Sepul­veda, a D.C. real es­tate agent who moved from Chile in the 1990s, can­celed busi­ness ap­point­ments and at­tended the rally with his 11-year-old daugh­ter. Af­ter liv­ing through po­lit­i­cal un­rest and the 1973 coup in Chile, he called what is hap­pen­ing in the United States “deja vu.”

“This is crit­i­cal,” Sepul­veda said. “Democ­racy seems like some­thing that is rou­tine, but right now it seems more au­thor­i­tar­ian than democ­racy.”

Bus­boys and Poets owner Andy Shal­lal, an Iraqi im­mi­grant and pro­gres­sive ac­tivist, shut all six of the res­tau­rants in the D.C. re­gion. He said it would be a “huge fi­nan­cial hit,” but as an im­mi­grant who em­ploys im­mi­grants, it was an im­por­tant stance to take.

“I’m an im­mi­grant, so I have a big­ger re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Shal­lal said.


Mar­cos Latin, a D.C. res­i­dent, car­ries the Gu­atemalan and Amer­i­can flags at Thurs­day’s march from the Mount Pleas­ant neigh­bor­hood to the White House.


Al­fredo Cas­tro, a D.C. res­i­dent orig­i­nally from Peru, has been in the United States for 16 years. Cas­tro, 29, marched with im­mi­grant rights sup­port­ers on Thurs­day.

May Da­matta, 63, of Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., stands on her car while wav­ing a flag in sup­port of Pres­i­dent Trump. She shouted to pro­test­ers dur­ing the march from the Mount Pleas­ant neigh­bor­hood to the White House.

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