By: Esperanza Cristancho (The Immigration Education Project)
On February 16, 2017, a “Day Without Immigrants” was organized in the U.S. through social media as a protest to show Trump and his xenophobic administration the contribution of immigrants to our country and the grave financial consequences that his harsh immigration policies could bring to the economy. Not surprisingly, given the anti-immigrant rhetoric from his campaign and since Trump won the election, the policies and executive orders (EOs) that we have witnessed in the past month, are not just targeted at immigrants who broke the law either because they entered the country without authorization or committed any crime. In fact, these policies are also affecting those who already have a legal status, and because of their origin, their legality in the U.S. is being questioned.
Although we have not seen the numbers that the strike produced as a result of the immigrant population “inactivity” (not working that day, not sending their children to school and not spending money), I would venture to say that most likely it was not as shocking as it would be if, and only if, all the real immigrants would actually participate in this nationwide strike. For some inexplicable reason, it seemed that the only foreign-born population residing in the U.S. as of this past Thursday, February 16, 2017, was the Latino community. I consider this bizarre because this cannot be further away from reality. The total U.S. immigrant population (foreign-born), according to ACS data in 2014, was 42.4 million. Of that number, 19.4 million people have Hispanic or Latino origins. http://www.migrationpolicy.org . Where were the other 23 million people that day? Why were the rest of the immigrants (Europeans, Asians, Indians, Middle Easters, Africans, etc.) absent?
According to BLS, Latinos/Hispanic origin immigrants make up the 48.8% of the foreign-born workforce, while 24.1% are Asian, 16.8% are white and 9.2% are black. https://www.bls.gov . It is important to recognize the fact that the absence of non-Latinos immigrants was not that evident in some places like California or New York, where Americans (not immigrants) definitely encourage more businesses to close that day in solidarity. I myself am not the exception to this phenomenon because I actually went to work that day, the only reason that probably excuse myself for not participating in the boycott is the fact that I work directly for immigrants in an immigration law firm, and I actually can do more for them in the office than outside of it. Other cities where tens of thousands of protesters walked off the job were Washington, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and New York, but it seems that the rest of non-Latino immigrants in the U.S. were too busy to join forces against this administration’s ultra-right, anti-immigrant policies.
As a result of the boycott, the media did not have any other options than to focus their stories on the restaurant industry. This is reasonable since 23% of 14 million people that work in the restaurant industry are foreign-born workers according to the National Restaurant Association, but to me was incomprehensible that there were no other stories to read or listen about immigrants from other industries. While I was searching for this I was thinking: maybe I am going to find in the newspaper that my gynecologist and all her staff (who are Indians) did not go to work that day. However, there was no story about her or other doctors. What about Silicon Valley and their startup successful companies? I am sure that a lot of them joined the cause because they will be directly affected by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies. Unfortunately not. Even though more than half of them were founded by one or more people from outside the United States and 71 percent of them employed immigrants in crucial executive roles, few, if any participated in a “Day without immigrants.” Sadly, immigrants from other industries and other countries did not show their solidarity with their own people Thursday, February 16, 2017.
I could not avoid thinking that we (the vast majority of “successful” immigrants) are behaving like the educated Jewish population in the Nazi Germany. They initially thought that the holocaust and the persecution of the Jewish population were just for the uneducated, poor Jews. As we all know now, they were wrong. On this occasion it seems that the invitation was sent exclusively to cooks, carpenters, plumbers and grocery store owners, but unfortunately that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or their children did not get the widely published message to join in a “Day Without Immigrants.” Did the founders, CEOs and staff of Google, Apple, Instagram, Uber, Tesla, AT&T, Budweiser, Colgate, eBay, General Electric, IBM, Oracle, Clorox, Boeing, 3M and Home Depot to mention a few of the very prosperous immigrant founded companies in U.S. forgot they are either immigrants or children of an immigrant? 18% (90) of the Fortune 500 companies had immigrant founders and the children of immigrants started another 114 Fortune 500 companies. (See “New American” Fortune 500 Report). As the report notes, “the revenue generated by Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants is greater than the GDP (gross domestic product) of every country in the world outside the U.S., except China and Japan. A day without one of these companies could and would have substantial impact. A lot of people from right and left, migrants and pilgrims, question this type of protests. They argue that it is too idealistic to think that our diverse American economy and beautiful life would actually be affected by one day of this type of boycotts. This is ridiculous! Right? After all, what effect would a day without Google or Apple have on the economy? I will let you “google” the answer on your Apple devices . . . .