Closed businesses, empty desks and protests across the US on “Day Without Immigrants”

Image posted on Twitter by @lavishlatina
Image posted on Twitter by @lavishlatina


Thousands of immigrants stayed home from work and school Feb. 16 and many businesses across the United States closed as part of the “Day Without Immigrants,” a grassroots protest and boycott that aimed to highlight the important role that immigrants have in the United States. In many cities, people also took to the streets to show their solidarity and to protest a wave of immigration raids and restrictive legislation pushed by the current US administration.

The nationwide, grassroots protest day -- which was not organised by a national group but via word of mouth on social networks -- encouraged immigrant families to stay home from work and school and to avoid shopping. Across the United States, hundreds of businesses remained shuttered in solidarity for the protest. Other businesses reduced their hours or services to allow their immigrant employees to stay home. Many branches of the McDonalds franchise closed, though it wasn't clear if they were forced to or if they made the choice to support workers. While the US did not grind to a halt, the protests were wide-ranging and people in cities across the US felt the effects. According to reports, even national institutions like the Capitol and the Pentagon were affected by reduced staff. Some schools in communities with a large immigrant population also saw a significant drop in attendance.

The day of protest comes during an uncertain and frightening time for many immigrants due to the aggresive tone of the new administration. President Donald Trump, who has referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “bad hombres”, has repeatedly said he will build a wall on the US-Mexico border. He signed an executive order banning US entry to refugees as well as immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries (a federal appeals court upheld a stay on this travel ban earlier in February). Last week, a wave of immigration raids took place across the United States, during which Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested some 680 people. The Department of Homeland Security later said these raids were routine and that they targeted people who had criminal convictions.

The Observers collected a series of tweets and social media posts showing how the a "Day Without Immigrants" played out.

Many businesses, especially restaurants, remained shuttered:

Spicy Chicken's not the only reason I love this place #daywithoutimmigrants

Une publication partagée par John Mallett (@jhmallett) le

In some schools in communities with large immigrant populations, attendance dropped drastically.

And, in many US cities, people took to the streets in protest.

Protestors march in Chicago. (YouTube)

Protestors in Durham, North Carolina sing a Mexican song in support of immigrants. (Twitter)

Protestors gather in Kansas City, Missouri in support of immigrants (Twitter)

About 26.3 million foreign-born people work in the United States, according to numbers collected by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015. They represent 16.7% of the American workforce. Some people recognized those who might have liked to participate in Thursday's protest, but could not afford to: