Lessons Learned on “A Day Without Immigrants”

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Lessons Learned on “A Day Without Immigrants”

By Emanuela Palmares

It spread on social media, rippling through immigrant communities like rumor. It was reminiscent of the times when someone wanted to spread fear and chaos  by sharing an old story of ICE raids from the early Obama years, and posted it like it had just happened in the community.

But this time the rumor was true. And this time rumor didn’t sow fear; it sowed empowerment for immigrants to exercise one of the most powerful pillars of our country – the right to peaceful protest.

All around the state and all over country, many cooks, house cleaners, carpenters, plumbers and small business owners decided to make the rumor a reality. They joined the “Day Without Immigrants” in protest of the Trump administration’s policies toward them.

The protest called for immigrants, whether naturalized citizens or undocumented, to stay home from work or school, close their businesses, abstain from shopping and in some instances, even keep kids home from school.

Flyers spread like wildfire, shared mostly on Facebook and via WhatsApp, the messaging service. No national group organized the action. Some in the immigrant community felt torn; others didn’t join in and were ostracized. Many joined in their own way.

We at the Tribuna decided to not give interviews, to not cover any events or help any mainstream media, who often rely on us to get the pulse of the immigrant community, with their stories. We closed our newsroom for the day in solidarity with the protest, making clear that while we stood with the community, we personally did not agree with some calling on children to stay at home and not go to school.

The sign posted on our doors read:

“In solidarity with the #ADayWithoutImmigrants movement, the Tribuna Newspaper will be closed on Thursday, February 16. However, we feel it is up to us, the adults, to take part in this silent protest to display the impact of the contributions we make as immigrants, not the children. We encourage immigrant workers and business owners to join the movement; we DO NOT encourage parents to keep their children at home, as their absence from school will only negatively impact their own academic future.”

Many critics on social media said the movement had no impact, that all it did it was show how great life would be if immigrants were gone.

I disagree. In Danbury, over 50 immigrant-owned businesses closed in solidarity with the protest that culminated in a peaceful demonstration at city hall with over 500 participants.

The action was the first step toward a profoundly unified immigrant community. Country of origin, legal status and language were set aside and for one day, we were all just immigrants. We saw with our own eyes our contribution. We felt it in our own pockets. We renewed our purpose on this land. We are here to add, not to subtract. The Day without Immigrants began with an outward purpose. But I believe the real lesson was inward – a lesson on unity, civics and love for this country and the opportunities it provides for all of us. And as my mother always says: you only fight for something worth fighting for. You only fight for something you love.

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February 22, 2017

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