A Day Without Immigrants Makes A Powerful Statement Across the Nation28 Feb 2017
Although the Trump Administration has occupied the White House for only about a month, the new President’s policies have already created a string of controversies that are deeply dividing the nation. Perhaps the most contentious among the flurry of executive orders that President Trump signed upon taking office was a decree banning travel into the U.S. of citizens from seven Muslim majority countries. The order also galvanized Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to increase raids, arrests, and deportations throughout the country. And while portions of the order are currently halted based on a federal appeals court decision, the message of the executive order remains glaring – the Trump Administration has trouble recognizing the benefits immigrants have bestowed upon this country.
On February 16, 2017, immigrants across the nation banded together to make a powerful statement about how much they contribute to our history, our economy, and our national identity. A Day Without Immigrants was a combination strike / boycott designed to highlight the impact that immigrants have on our daily life. Millions of immigrants across the nation stayed home from work, kept their children out of school, and avoided shopping or eating out in a deliberate rebuke to the Trump Administration’s stringent new immigration agenda. As a result, classrooms were half-empty, construction sites were shorthanded, and restaurants were forced to close for the day. Even concession stands at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. were forced to shutter their doors due to the majority of their staff participating in the strike.
In solidarity with the movement, and as an immigrant-owned business, the Murthy Law Firm did not close. We support immigrants when our doors are open, and our staff is on the phones, updating our website, and filing cases for our clients. A generous contribution was made, by the MurthyNAYAK Foundation, to Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network (FIRN), a nonprofit organization in Howard County, Maryland. FIRN is dedicated to empowering immigrants, refugees, and asylees and other foreign-born neighbors by connecting them with opportunities and resources in the community.
For a movement that gained strength swiftly and primarily through social media, A Day Without Immigrants sparked a national conversation about how the contributions that immigrants make to our nation often go unrecognized. High profile chef Jose Andres, who is himself an immigrant from Spain, explained his decision to close the five restaurants he owns in Washington D.C. for the day as “very easy” in an interview with NPR. “It seems immigrants, especially Latinos, it seems we are under attack. It seems we are part of the American Dream, but somehow it seems that America is not recognizing what we are doing.” Rick Bayless, a prominent Chicago chef, also closed several of his restaurants on Thursday in solidarity with his immigrant employees. As he told the New York Times, “What really makes our country great is the diversity we experience here. I can’t say enough about the lack of respect and the fear-mongering and the hate-mongering that I’m sensing around us these days.” [See A Day Without Immigrants Promises National Strike Thursday, by Bill Chappell, NPR, 16.Feb.17.]
And while immigrants who were born in Latin countries have been the primary targets of a recent ramp up in raids conducted by ICE agents across the country, A Day Without Immigrants was inclusive of all immigrants who are concerned about getting caught in the crosshairs of the Trump Administration. In Brooklyn, an entire neighborhood full of Pakistani-owned stores and restaurants closed their doors. Many members of the immigrant Muslim community in New York and New Jersey also chose to stay home from work and school on Thursday as part of A Day Without Immigrants. Even native-born Americans joined with immigrants across the nation to champion the message behind the strike. At a gathering in downtown Newark, New Jersey, protestors carried signs and chanted, “We are loud, we are clear, immigrants are welcome here!” [See On A Day Without Immigrants, Workers Show Their Presence By Staying Home, by Liz Robbins and Annie Correal, New York Times, 16.Feb.17.]
While A Day Without Immigrants aimed to highlight the economic contributions of immigrants to our nation, we must remember that immigrants are more than just a benefit to our financial bottom line. Their unique strengths, stories, and experiences are part of our national narrative, and must be protected for future generations regardless of political agendas.
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