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US ‘Day Without Immigrants’ to protest Trump's policies

© Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, AFP | A demonstrator holds a sign as the New York Immigration Coalition holds a rally and protest against US President's Donald Trump's immigration policies in New York's Foley Square on February 14, 2017.

Video by Rebecca ROSMAN

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-02-16

Organizers in cities across the United States have asked immigrants to skip school, work, and desist from shopping on Thursday to demonstrate the crucial role they play in the American economy and way of life.

Actions to mark "A Day Without Immigrants" are unfolding in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Houston, Chicago and New York. The protest gained momentum on social media and by word of mouth. Organizers expect thousands of people to participate or show solidarity with workers.

The nationwide event is a response to the policies of US President Donald Trump, whose month-old administration has pledged to increase the deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally. Trump campaigned on building a wall along America’s southern border with Mexico and blamed high unemployment on immigration. As president, he has called for a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming into the US.

Some of the US capital's finest restaurants are putting their money where their mouths are: shutting down for a day to protest President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policies.

"For one single day on a weekday, we must come together and unite in absolute resistance in order to reject the system dictating the launch from dehumanization and blatant oppression of those that are not straight, white, natural-born citizens," reads the social media call to action.

The shutdown aims to show the world "how crucial we are to the basic fundamentals of the United States' economy," according to a Facebook post.

The initiative kicked off recently without a central organizer, staying under the radar until some high-profile restaurants in Washington announced their participation, helping the movement gain momentum.

Eateries in New York and Philadelphia have also said they will participate in the one-day protest.

Washington-based José Andrés -- an immigrant from Spain who became an award-winning celebrity chef and built a restaurant empire -- said on Twitter he is closing five of his establishments to show support for workers.

Doors at one of his restaurants, China Chilcano, remain open to customers, giving employees who do not wish to protest the option to work, his management said.

Some restaurant owners said their employees would be paid, while other workers would take the day off. Andrés did not specify what the case would be at his restaurants.

Andrés is in a legal battle with Trump that came after the chef pulled out of plans to open a restaurant in the real estate mogul's Washington hotel. Andrés cited the Republican's anti-immigrant comments on the campaign trail as his reason for backing out.

Undocumented immigrants made up about nine percent of employees in the hotel and restaurant industry in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.

In Massachusetts, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College said that through February 21 it would remove or shroud all the museum's artwork created or donated by immigrants.

In New Mexico, the state with the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation, school officials worried that hundreds of students would stay home on Thursday.

"We respectfully ask all parents to acknowledge that students need to be in class every day to benefit from the education they are guaranteed and to avoid falling behind in school and life," principals with the Albuquerque Public Schools wrote in a letter to parents.

Students who take part in the protest will receive an unexcused absence, Albuquerque school officials said.

Organizers in Philadelphia said they expect hundreds of workers and families to participate.

"Our goal is to highlight the need for Philadelphia to expand policies that stop criminalizing communities of color," said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, a nonprofit group that works with the Latino immigrant community. "What would happen if massive raids did happen? What would the city look like?"

The call to boycott comes after last week's series of immigration raids that rounded up some 680 people -- three-quarters of them with a criminal record -- for expulsion.

The raids stirred worries in immigrant communities but were not out of line with similar actions carried out under former President Barack Obama.

At least 11 million people are living in the US illegally.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Date created : 2017-02-16

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