Immigrant Workers Strike Today as Part of “Day Without Immigrants” Protest

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Chef José Andrés, an immigrant from Spain, will be closing many of his Washington-region restaurants Thursday as part of a nationwide immigrant boycott.

In cities around the U.S., construction companies, restaurants and countless other businesses are bracing for “A Day Without Immigrants,” a boycott/strike meant to bring attention to the important of immigrants to American business and culture.

The movement is largely a response to recent developments on immigration, particularly President Trump’s promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and also the controversial travel ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries (currently on hold).

Some businesses are shutting their doors for the day; others will remain open but have pledged to donate a share of the day’s proceeds to nonprofits that aid immigrant communities. In many cases, business owners are honoring their staffs’ wishes, after holding votes among workers to decide whether to close.

Here’s a full story on the “Day Without Immigrants” protest from the Washington Post:

Colin McDonough will be working in the kitchen at the restaurant he owns on Thursday while nearly his entire kitchen staff is out for the day.  McDonough said that to keep his restaurant open, he and a co-owner will flip burgers and make chicken wings themselves, sticking to the basic menu items they feel confident preparing.

Most of the kitchen staff at McDonough’s Boundary Stone restaurant in D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood is made up of immigrants who will be on strike Thursday as part of the national “Day Without Immigrants” protest.

“It will be a very limited menu because we are not as talented as the people who normally work there,” said McDonough, who will be paying the employees who participate in the boycott. “We just got together and decided together as a team that it was a good idea on our part to give our team off to voice their concerns.”

Immigrants in D.C. and across the country plan to participate in the “Day Without Immigrants” boycott, a response to President Trump’s pledges to crack down on those in the country illegally, use “extreme vetting” and build a wall along the Mexican border. The social-media-organized protest aims to show the president the effect immigrants have in the country on a daily basis. The boycott calls for immigrants not to attend work, open their businesses, spend money or even send their children to school. The Washington region had the seventh-largest immigrant population in the country in 2010, with 21.8 percent of the population being foreign-born, according to a study from the Brookings Institution.

At least one D.C. charter school, LAMB Public Charter School, will be closed Thursday because staff members and students will be protesting. Some day cares will close or reduce their hours because employees are striking. Jubilee JumpStart day care in Adams Morgan is opening a half hour later in the morning and closing an hour earlier because about 50 percent of its classroom staff will be boycotting.

Dee Dee Parker Wright, executive director of Jubilee JumpStart, says that these are full-time staff members who have paid time off, so will still be paid on Thursday. She will be giving her part-time staffers, many of whom are also immigrants and do not get paid time off, more hours to fill-in for those striking.

“We don’t really have much of a choice because our folks have paid leave and we honor that,” Wright said. “Part of our mission is that we are community-based, and we know that our staff comes from the community and we try to support everybody in what’s fair and right.”

The chief of schools for D.C. Public Schools, John Davis, sent a note to principals in the school system saying that while many people may participate in the boycott, school will continue as normal and staff and students are expected to be in attendance.

“We highly value and are committed to fostering a learning environment where staff and students feel safe and secure and we respect the right to self-expression and peaceful protest,” the letter says.

Celebrity chef José Andrés, an immigrant from Spain, announced on Twitter that he will be closing some of his restaurants in the region because of the boycott — three Jaleo restaurants, Zaytinya and Oyamel. Andrés backed out of a contract in 2015 with Trump to open a restaurant inside D.C.’s Trump International Hotel after the then-presidential candidate called undocumented Mexican immigrants “criminals” and “rapists.” The two are still in the middle of a legal battle.

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Emery Reddy