by Nika Knight
In response to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders and sweeping deportation raids that have led to nearly 700 arrests nationwide, immigrants in cities across the country are walking out of work Thursday for a “Day Without Immigrants” strike, to demonstrate how much the United States depends on immigrants.
Businesses, including restaurants and shops, as well as schools, museums, and even federal government offices are expected to see workers strike and protest.
“Mister President, without us and without our input, this country will stand still,” declared a poster announcing the strike that was widely shared on social media.
“From doctors to dishwashers, immigrants are integral to daily life in the U.S.,” tweeted National Council of La Raza president Janet Murguía.
In Washington, D.C, alone, over 60 restaurants will be closed, with many more only offering a limited menu as owners scramble to cover for the absence of their entire kitchen staff.
Other businesses are shuttering for the day in solidarity, such as the Sweetgreen salad chain, which decided to close its 18 restaurants in the D.C. area. “Our team members are the face of the brand, from the front lines to our kitchen—they’re the backbone of this company and what makes Sweetgreen special,” said co-founders Nicolas and Nathaniel Jonathan to USA Today. “And that’s why we stand with them, today and every day.”
Several famous chefs are also using their platform to publicly stand with immigrants. Prizewinning Phoenix chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, for example, announced that she was closing her three restaurants, telling USA Today: “You know what, my restaurants don’t function without immigrants. That starts in the field, people who pick our food, the processing plants, the slaughterhouse, I could go on.”
José Andres, another award-winning chef who is also already battling the president over Andres’ decision to pull out of plans to open a restaurant in Trump Hotel D.C., announced that he would close his restaurants in solidarity as well.
“People that never missed one day of work are telling you they don’t want to work on Thursday,” Andres, who immigrated to the U.S. from Spain, told Reuters. “They want to say: ‘Here we are,’ by not showing up. The least I could do was to say: ‘OK, we stand by you.’”
Students around the country are expected to refuse to go to school, with at least one school in D.C. canceling classes in advance.
In Washington, D.C, federal contract workers are also holding a massive strike in Upper Senate Park to protest low wages and pay cuts. “Trump can’t break a promise to the working class and get away with it,” said Ben Jealous, former NAACP president and the founding chair of Good Jobs Defenders, the coalition of unions and advocacy groups behind the federal contract workers’ strike, in a statement.
“Striking workers put Trump on notice in December after his election. This will be the first strike after Trump took the oath of office,” Jealous added. Watch a live video of the strike and rally, which will feature speeches from Jealous, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), here.
Some places are getting creative with the day of protest. The Davis Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, for example, is shrouding or de-installing all works of art created by immigrants or donated to the museum by immigrants, to highlight the invaluable contributions of immigrants to American arts. The project, called Art-Less, begins Thursday.
“We’ll see pockets of absence all over the museum,” the museum director told The Art Newspaper. “The African art section is almost entirely lost to view.”
As protests and rallies unfold in cities nationwide, follow along on social media under the hashtag #DayWithoutImmigrants. People are also voicing support for immigrants and opposition to Trump’s draconian immigration stance using the hashtags #ToImmigrantsWithLove and #NoBanNoWall.