The dictionary defines an immigrant as a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence.
Is that so bad?
In 2004, the Mexican film director Sergio Arau made A Day without a Mexican, a satirical film in which every single Mexican mysteriously disappears for an entire day throughout the whole state of California.
It wasn’t a very good film because Mexicans do more than washing cars, valet parking, and gardening, but the idea was great. What would happen to California if every single Mexican disappeared for a day? How would the economy and other social systems be affected?
More than 14 million Mexicans reside in the state of California. Working legally or illegally, they have become embedded in the fabric of the social mechanisms of the state.
There are 61 million immigrants living in the United States, of which only 43.5 million have come into this country legally. Most of these people came here with dreams of a better future for themselves and their families. They work hard every day; they work hard to become part of society, to be accepted.
It is hard being an immigrant. It is scary being an immigrant. Even when you have went through the procedure of becoming a legal citizen and follow every step of the process, like I have, you never know how Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will treat you.
I came to this land because I fell in love with an American man and we decided to become a family together. I wasn’t running away from anything; I actually go back to my hometown, Tijuana, often. I can hardly imagine the fear of those who have gotten here running from war, poverty, hunger and despair.
We are in times of protest.
On February 16, 2017, immigrants were called into action: a national strike/boycott was planned in response to Donald Trump’s immigration agenda.
The intention was for immigrants not only to get out on the streets and protest but, for one day, to stop shopping, working, going to restaurants or schools, and to close their businesses.
Many went out to the streets, many stayed at home and disappeared for the day, and many closed their stores and restaurants. Many lost their jobs.
It’s estimated that more than 100 people lost their jobs around the country in the aftermath of this strike. Immigrants working in the food industry and the childcare business were mainly affected.
This is not the first time that immigrants got organized for a protest like this. In May 2006, a similar response came against the Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005; it was called the Great America Boycott. The bill, that did not pass the Senate, intended the construction of a double-layered fence along the Mexico-U.S. border and severe penalties to the trespassers or anyone who would offer them any kind of aid.
We are part of the United States. We love this country and call it home. We matter. We impact the cultural, social and economic development of this country. We work to make it great with love, kindness and a lot of sweat. We raise our children to be of benefit, not only to this country, but also to the world.
Many have shown solidarity with the immigrants, but let’s not forget about this effort so soon. If we want this to work, we have to stay involved and keep reading, teaching and sharing.
No one really knows where this latest movement started. I received an invitation just a couple of days before it took place. It came in a group text message.
The advocacy group Cosecha, leads a nonviolent movement that protects undocumented immigrants around the country, and planned “A day without immigrants” protest for May 1st, 2017, which is International Labor Day. The strike intends to show the American community that “this country cannot function without the labor of our community—the immigrant community.”
There are many illegal immigrants who will not join the protest because they will be afraid to lose their jobs or be deported, so we, those who can, have to be their voices.
Do not wait until they come for you; there may not be anyone left to help you.
We will keep raising our voices. I hope many others will join us and we can stand together, holding hands, becoming a protective sanctuary for the defenseless.
Together we are strong; together we will change the world.
Author: Montse Leon
Editor: Travis May