The silence that nearly completely engulfed 24th Street on Thursday, Feb. 16 was glorious. Doors and curtains were closed, sidewalks remained empty, and the amount of empty parking spaces along the main street in the Mission was a sight unlike anything I had ever seen.
It was a silence that said a lot. For example, it said we should not forget the economic power of the community, that when we organize we can have a great impact. Above all, it said that the immigrant community throughout the United States is awake and ready to defend our most fundamental rights.
The oppression of immigrants is an evil that has been part of our society for a long time. The lies created to justify this oppression are not new: Immigrants steal your jobs. They can’t adapt to society. They have customs and practices that are contrary to the morals of this country. But the crown jewel of falsehoods came the moment Trump announced his candidacy, calling Mexicans rapists, thieves and criminals.
“A day without immigrants” (#adaywithoutimmigrants) was an economic protest in response to the actions of the current administration: Recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids nationwide and Trump’s executive orders to build a wall and to ban of Muslim immigrants, among many other things. It was a day without immigrants supporting the economy, to see if this economic system that mistreats us can live without us.
No one in this country should ignore the reality that the economy of the United States depends on the labor and spending of the millions of immigrants living here. Without us, the United States would not be a fraction of what it is today, and that’s why it’s important for us—people who leave our birthplace and come here for the possibility of a better future—to be included.
I recently had the opportunity to see the documentary “I am not your Negro,” in which James Baldwin explains that the idea of calling someone “negro” makes them less than a person. The reason privilege and capital have created this division is meant to justify the exploitation, humiliation and marginalization of others. In the current context, the term “immigrant” means less than a “citizen.” Even worse is the idea that many of these immigrants are “illegal,” implying that their very existence is a crime, something perverse that we have to be saved from. That’s the moral justification that the state needs to persecute us.
From here we send a message, strong and clear: We are not alone, we are together. Build your wall and our generation will tear it down. There is no human being that is illegal. We understand that in the most extreme conditions, human beings resist, not because of the color of our skin or sexual or religious preference, but because of our obstinacy to persist. Together we all stand. We resist.
Thanks to all of the people who joined the boycott, who did not buy, who did not go out, and did not go to work at the risk of losing their jobs. To the businesses that closed and to all those who spread the word, thank you. Let us continue to build a country for all.
Story by: Arturo Mendez