‘Day Without Immigrants’ Impacts Cities Across Country

“Businesses cannot function without immigrant workers today.”

Demonstrators march during the "Day Without Immigrants" protest in Washington, DC, February 16, 2017. / REUTERS

A “Day Without Immigrants” took place on Thursday, gaining recognition through social media and word of mouth as people all across the country stayed home from work and school, closed businesses and refused to spend money.

The goal was to prove that immigrants are a vital component of businesses in the United States. As summed up by Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, “Businesses cannot function without immigrant workers today.”

While entire cities did not shut down and business operations did not halt completely, business owners and patrons alike could see a significant difference.

Incredibly, the nationwide moment was not started by one particular organization. It spread widely via Facebook and quickly impacted all sectors of employment — including the federal government. The Pentagon told its employees several of its restaurants would be closed because immigrants would not be working that day.

BLT Prime, a restaurant in the Trump International D.C. Hotel, ran on a limited menu, CNN reported, and its sister restaurant, located near the White House, was closed entirely.

New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and other places all felt the effects of the protest.

José Andrés, a Spanish celebrity chef who is currently involved in a legal dispute with President Donald Trump, announced he would be closing several of his Washington-based restaurants for the day.

“They were giving us a heads-up that they weren’t coming to work on Thursday, and the number of employees kept increasing,” Andrés said in an interview with the Atlantic. “[My employees] are doing it to show how important immigrants are for America, and we’re supporting them in closing.”

Andrés said immigrants are “the backbone of the American economy.”

“By not working tomorrow, it’s a way to feel good that they’re doing something about it and sending a message,” he explained Wednesday. “This is almost saying, ‘We’re here. We’re working. We want to be part of the system. We want to keep supporting the America that has supported us, but at this moment we’re really fed up.’”

Some employees chose to strike but not before making sure their work was done. A restaurant owner in Washington, D.C., found a note from his prep cooks that they had done extra work in advance before taking part in Thursday’s strike.

“We’re a very small business, and without them we would not be able to open today,” said Matt Carr, owner of Little Red Fox restaurant. “They not only gave me a heads-up about the strike, but did double the work yesterday so we would be in good shape today.”

“Immigrants are the backbone of this country and the heart and soul of the service industry,” Carr said. “Without them, our small businesses would crumble. They are also part of our family here at Little Red Fox, and I, too, am worried about their future under this administration.”

Some restaurants showed support in other ways. Chicago chef and restaurant owner Rick Bayless left some of his restaurants open and would be donating some of his earnings for the day to an immigrant group, he reported to The New York Times.

“What really makes our country great is the diversity we experience here,” said Bayless. “I can’t say enough about the lack of respect and the fear-mongering and hate-mongering that I’m sensing around us these days.”

Consumers noticed the difference, too, whether it was through longer wait times due to limited staff or the closures of businesses entirely. Rabbi Joel Labin, who lives in a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, took note of the lack of Latino workers in the neighborhood and said he felt he could relate.

“I thought, ‘Oy, my coffee will not be as good as any day,’ but I felt, ‘Good for them, they are standing up for their rights,” Labin said. “We grew up with these stories. I hear from my grandparents the issue of immigration from Europe. I feel like it’s kind of my story, too.”

Some people did not believe the strike would affect them until they went to their favorite local business and saw it closed.

Restaurants were not the only businesses that felt the effects. Shea Frederick, owner of a Baltimore-based construction company, said that he had a full day of work planned — only to realize his workers, five immigrants, would not be showing up to work that day and would be participating in the strike.

“I had an entire day of full work,” he said. “I have inspectors lined up to inspect the place, and now they’re thrown off, and you do it the day before the weekend and it pushes things off even more. It sucks, but it’s understandable.”

Schools across the country noticed the protest, too. The Associated Press reported that, at Dallas Independent School District schools, over 1,100 students did not show up for class on Thursday.

College students took to social media to say they would not be going to class that day in light of the protest. Some even reported that their professors cancelled class entirely.

Immigrants in the Workforce

“Day Without Immigrants” showed the effects of immigrant workers for one day. But a workforce without immigrants would have a large impact on the country. Data shows that the workforce consists of between 26 million and 28 million foreign-born people. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, in 2015, foreign-born people consisted of 16.7 percent of the total workforce. This is up from 14.8 percent in 2005.

The restaurant industry in particular has a lot of foreign-born workers — in a variety of roles. The National Restaurant Association reported this month that 2.3 million foreign-born workers work in restaurants across the country, representing about 8 percent of the total workforce.

“Restaurants also have a higher concentration of foreign-born workers than the overall U.S. economy. More than 23 percent of individuals employed at restaurants are foreign-born, versus 19 percent for the overall economy,” the organization reported. “Foreign-born workers are comparatively more likely to hold higher-paying jobs in the restaurant industry, according to ACS [American Community Survey] data. Forty-five percent of restaurant chefs are foreign-born, as are 24 percent of restaurant managers.”

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20 comments


    • In about 9 months – it will take that long for subsequent stunts like yesterday’s press conference to wear down the feckless republican leadership. They’ll saw off the executive branch to avoid losing the legislative branch.

  • A great peaceful protest. I hope the message is received. Unfortunately the executive leadership is probably looking for a way to combat people protesting for their rights in the greatest democracy in the world. (Something needs fixing in my last sentence…)

  • Legal immigrants are important and valued. It’s the illegal ones we have a problem with. I would assume that if companies are following the law, every person that skipped work is a legal immigrant. If not, then they and the company that employs them should be punished. Its curious how Trump’s plan to actually enforce our current immigration laws, and crack down on illegals is construed to mean he wants to stop ALL immigration.

    • It’s the insensitive, bigoted and crude way he communicates. And that’s why he was only able to eek out such a tiny win. 77,000 votes, scattered across three states was all it took to overrule 3 million population votes.

      This is what he obesses over – for good reason. He invited the Russians to hack into Clinton’s email. What if they took a little initiative and hacked into the election returns of those three states. Wouldn’t be hard.

  • Immigrants protest? Including legal immigrants? I know a few legal immigrants, and they don’t much like illegals.

    • Charity Dell

      REIBSON–

      1. Yes, they turn up their snooty noses at their truly DESPERATE compatriots, who were fleeing
      SEVERE CONDITIONS, including SEX TRAFFICKING OF THEIR CHILDREN,
      NARCO-TERRORISTS, CRIMINAL GANGS and EXTREME RIGHT-and-LEFT WING
      POLITICAL GUERILLA GROUPS. Economic deprivation is a direct result
      of ALL these dangerous conditions, that destroy life and families for MILLIONS
      of Latin Americans–people who are ALSO SYSTEMATICALLY DISCRIMINATED
      AGAINST BY THE WHITE “CRIOLLO” CLASS, the 5% blanco/branco elites
      that DOMINATE Latin America and FREEZE OUT 95% of INDIGENOUS AND
      AFRO-DESCENDED peoples who are still slaves 500 years after the “conquista.”

      2. Those who had the luxury–and FUNDS–to “come by the rules” are typically
      NOT from the lowest classes of these counties, so they already have no
      sympathy for the EXTREME POVERTY and ECONOMIC, EDUCATIONAL
      AND POLITICAL DISENFRANCHISEMENT that drastically affects their less
      fortunate countrymen/women. Their neighbors’ suffering meant nothing
      to them “back home” and doesn’t mean anything now.

      3. I’ve taught undocumented students–adult and adolescent–and none of them
      were interested in getting into crime. They were just literally trying to survive
      and help their families to survive. As a librarian I served many of these so-called
      “undocumented” persons and their offspring–people who were MORE GRATEFUL
      for my help than many American-born brats (adult and adolescent!) ever were.
      Frankly, there is no difference between folks crossing the Rio Grande to flee
      from a bad life and folks hopping on boats and planes to flee from bad lives.

      4. HISTORICALLY, this entire country was ILLEGALLY FOUNDED AT THE EXPENSE OF
      NATIVE POPULATIONS–massacred and felled by disease–by the hordes of
      criminal aliens and ne’er-do-wells literally dumped out of European jails/prisons
      and rounded to be shipped to the Americas. Native Americans are STILL
      being massacred “legally” by Euro-American corporations.

      Then the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade dragged millions of AFRICANS to these shores to create the
      SLAVE CLASS–even if/when slavery was OUTLAWED by the colonial powers, it
      still continued UN-INTERRUPTED in the Americas to benefit the LAZY,
      GREEDY LANDOWNERS who justified their sins “by any means necessary”,
      including systems of UNJUST “laws.”

      We just need to stop focusing on “undocumented illegals” with
      Spanish surnames and tan-to-copper-to-brown skins, and start
      rounding up the truly DANGEROUS criminals among us, including
      all those home-grown WHITE MALES, aged 17–35, that massacre
      us Americans with assault weapons. Let ICE round THEM up and
      DUMP THEM south of the border–and let the drug cartels take
      good care of THEM.

      Then ICE should round up and DEPORT ALL THOSE RUSSIANS
      who were invited in to MESS UP THE ELECTION. Drop THEM
      south of the border, and leave the families of “dreamers” alone.

  • As an African American female who had exploited slave ancestors, I can’t believe that so-called “progressives” are supporting this Day Without Immigrants! What these cheap employers are reflecting is that they couldn’t survive without exploited LOW-WAGE workers. What’s progressive about that?

    I support deportation of all illegals and/or immigrants because most of them are the garbage and riff-raff from other countries that add no real value to the American economy except as leeches on its lifeblood. These uneducated peasants bring their ignorant, uncivilized ways and desperation and won’t assimilate except to become white supremacists and racists mainly against African Americans.

    Good riddance to radical Muslim terrorists who won’t assimilate and other immigrants. A day without immigrants will feel like a day without ticks under my skin. They really believe that Americans are “unemployable”? That reflects the “taco” signholder’s in your face disrespect and arrogance. I’m surprised that a taco maker could spell “unemployable”; I’m sure it took 20 illegals to help with spelling that word. Their countries need to build its economy so that these blood-sucking leeches will stop coming to America to drain its welfare system. They don’t come over here to work– they want a free taco lunch.

    • I find your comment rather generalistic and mostly ignorant. Immigrants are some of the most educated folks in the US. Google it. Yes, they may come from countries with struggling economies, but i guarantee you, a lot of them are more civilized and educated than you probably.
      Maybe you don’t realize, but the views you just spouted about immigrants, many similarly ignorant white Americans believe that about you.
      And Yes, i am an Immigrant and i speak from a place of experience. I could say more but i am pretty sure you will not get it.

    • As an African American I have to say that I was disappointed in the way you generalized immigrants. You said “most are garbage and the riff-raff.” I couldn’t disagree more, allow me to give you one example that refutes your comment. I used to work for Honeywell a few years back, specifically the Air Transport Division. Air Transport builds flight systems that require a great deal of software programming. Guess where the majority of those folks come from? They are from India, and are aggressively recruited in many cases, straight out of college. They are or at least were, hired under an H1B visa which is for foreign nationals with skills in a specialty field. More and more this is becoming a necessity as we are slowly but surely declining when it comes to growing talent internally in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or the STEM fields. As far as assimilation goes, that generally happens within a generation, not that keeping your heritage alive is a bad thing. I qualify my last statement with as long as it does not infringe on the same rights of others or minimizes the importance of other heritages. Stop making generalizations and bring something of value to the table. Nuff said!

  • Charity Dell

    I would like the United States to DEPORT the Russian spies in Washington DC
    “back to Russia”. Then dump the Alt-Right Arctic White Cabal ANYWHERE in the
    back woods of–let’s see–maybe RUSSIA–so that they can live and
    work with Vlad the Putin.

    2. Let’s then deport the MILLIONS of WHITE UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS
    from Europe, Canada, Central America, South America, The Levant, Western Asia, Israel,
    Israel, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. ICE should freely invade American homes
    in ALL the ethnic enclaves in cities, metropolitan areas, suburbia, small towns and exurbs,
    to find, arrest and DEPORT illegals of European descent, and/or those who “look white.”

    By the time ICE makes arrest and deportation a national sport “across the board” and
    DEPORTS ALL UNDOCUMENTED PERSONS, how many American-Bred White Folks
    would be left?
    all those illegal

    Then they can DEPORT all those Neo-Nazi Alt-Right White Brotherhood KKK Zombies

    • Charity Dell

      Then they can DEPORT all those Neo-Nazi, Alt-Right, White Brotherhood/
      Neo-Aryan, White Identitarian, KKK Zombies BACK TO GERMANY–IF–
      Angela Merkel has room for them in her nation’s prison system.

  • Rich invest in having sections of the poor dissent against one another is so American! When most Americans in particular poor and working poor Whites realize they are on the same level as undocumented immigrants, you’ll have a different tone.

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