Several restaurants and small businesses in the College Park and D.C. area closed Thursday as part of an organized effort to demonstrate the role immigrants play in the United States.
“A Day Without Immigrants” encouraged immigrants — both documented and undocumented — not to go to work, school or open their businesses to show they are an integral part of daily life, according to the group’s Facebook page. Organizers on social media also urged participants to march toward the White House as part of the effort.
Throughout his campaign, President Trump called to deport undocumented immigrants and to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In June 2015, he said Mexican immigrants were “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
On Jan. 27, Trump signed an executive order barring citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. The order also suspended the entry of refugees for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 9 unanimously to uphold a block on the ban.
Sweetgreen in College Park and Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville were two local restaurants that closed their doors Thursday. Both businesses chose solidarity with immigrants over another work day.
“We’re a very diverse group working here, so we’re supporting our staff that want to go and march. And we are all a bunch of immigrants here too, so we’re all planning on supporting the march,” said Christopher Howard, the Busboys and Poets Hyattsville location’s front-of-the-house manager. “Andy Shallal himself is an immigrant actually — he’s the owner.”
Sixty to 70 people work at Hyattsville’s Busboys and Poets, he said, and none of them would be coming into work Thursday. Howard called it “a message of unity,” saying that he recognizes that we are all one people.
The Washington Post reported that Busboys and Poets also closed its locations on 14th Street, Brookland, City Vista, Shirlington and Takoma.
Sweetgreen also closed 18 locations as part of the protest. Its co-founders and co-CEOs wrote in a letter to the D.C. community that the company stands with immigrants “today and everyday.”
“Our diversity is what makes this family great, and we respect our team members’ right to exercise their voice in our democracy,” the letter read.
Karla Casique, a junior journalism major, said she supports Busboys and Poets for standing up for what they believe in. As an immigrant herself, she called the movement “impactful”.
“A lot of people don’t understand, but this is really hard,” Casique said. “People are living paycheck to paycheck, and taking a day off work is a lot, so the fact that the older generation is taking a stand — and it’s having a domino-effect across the nation — it’s huge.”
Cities such as Austin, Texas, Boston, Detroit and Philadelphia also participated in the “Day Without Immigrants,” according to The Washington Post.
Ari Gejdenson owns eight bars and restaurants in Washington. He said they have about 250 employees total, and about 70 percent of them weren’t born in America.
Gejdenson said his parents were immigrants, so he could relate to this movement.
“I run Italian restaurants for the most part, so we have a lot of first-generation immigrants, and if they’re not first generation, most of us are second generation, so we had to close,” he said. “We’re definitely completely in support. I don’t think this country can operate without immigrants, being that it’s a country built on immigrants.”
Casique noted that a few weeks ago in New York, many Yemeni immigrants closed their bodegas and went to pray in front of city hall. She saw parallels between their decision and Thursday’s movement, she said.
“People might think that voting for [Trump] doesn’t impact them, but then this sort of movement today shows that it does impact you if these businesses are closing,” she said. “It’s just kind of hitting people in the face with these facts.”