Protest aim to emphasize how dependent America is on immigrant labor
The Short Version
Major protests are planned in Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, and Chicago to bring attention to the amount of immigrant labor in the U.S. Several restaurants are closing for the day and demonstrations are planned in an effort to bring attention to what are considered unfair and potentially illegal actions on the part of the 45th president’s administration.
A Bit More Detail
The messages started appearing in my social media feeds around noon yesterday. “Carry ID,” they warned. “Everyone riding the red line who looking Latino or Middle Eastern is being stopped. Know your rights.”
The warnings were directed toward immigrants living and working in and around Chicago. Rumors are swirling that immigration officials are conducting or planning to conducts raids across that city this week with a goal of rounding up some 20,000 illegal immigrants. Immigration officials, of course, don’t speak regarding any plans they might have for raids and such. They’d hate to ruin their own surprise.
Naturally, once again, the immigrant community is scared. Anytime immigration officials start casting broad nets like this, they end up violation the rights of people who are here legally and have often been accused of mistreatment toward those whom they plan to deport. The frequency and brutality of those raids has increased since the new president was sworn in three weeks ago.
This issue is real and more than immigrants are paying attention. A survey of over 100,000 people found that millennial women are especially plugged into the immigration debate, moving the importance of that issue up from 8th place to 3rd in just three weeks. Among women 22-35, the immigration issue is so important that they have altered their shopping patterns based on a brand’s perceived stand toward immigration.
#ADayWithoutImmigrants has organized well and in many cases includes the support of employers who depend on a significant number of immigrants to keep their business running. The Washington Post has a running list of restaurants that will be closed today in support of the protest. Other cities as diverse as Minneapolis and Austin are participating in the protests. The overall effect could be considerably disruptive, especially as the loss of sales tax revenue for the day is likely to be considerable.
What this all comes down to is the fact that we are a nation of immigrants built on the back of immigrants and dependent upon the hard work and labor of immigrants. At the same time, as a country, we have fought this battle before. Groups we now consider mainstream, such as the Irish and German populations common across the North, were once given the same abusive treatment as Latino and Middle Eastern immigrants are now experiencing. We seem to have difficulty learning from our past mistakes.
Whether the protests are effective remains to be seen. There has been some concern that those participating any kind of immigrant rally could become targets for immigration authorities. Already, rumors that immigration officers could be staking out churches and public schools has frightened a number of immigrants, including those who are here legally, into hiding. Churches in Colorado and Chicago are already taking a stand, allowing undocumented people facing deportation to claim asylum within their walls. However, doing so comes with some risks. Courts have disagreed as to whether church pastors and staff can be charged with aiding a fugitive when they provide asylum.
While the protests may not keep ICE from making raids in Chicago or elsewhere this weekend, they do have the effect of bringing the topic to the forefront of the national conversation, making the topic of immigration one that is impossible to ignore.