March 07, 2017
On Feb. 16, thousands across the United States did not show up to work in protest against immigration policies.
Students also participated in the protest called A Day Without Immigrants.
This boycott and strike was not the first of its kind. On May 1, 2006, a similar protest occurred, and another is scheduled to take place again on May 1.
Both protests are in reaction to a government restriction on immigrant workers.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, immigrants and their children, who are U.S. citizens, made up 26 percent of the population in 2016.
In 2014, immigrants constituted 17 percent of the U.S. workforce.
This is a large percentage of the population that is adversely affected by immigration policies.
At first, I was supportive of the protest because I felt the voices of those holding jobs would think twice about families that are bringing their children to live a better life in the United States.
These voices deserve to be heard.
But after a conversation with my mother, who is a German immigrant, I came to the conclusion that this boycott could only be beneficial to people who have the job security to take part in it.
People who work multiple jobs to maintain their families’ well-being could be putting their finances in jeopardy by voicing their opinions.
Only those who are privileged can afford to participate in such an event.
Nayda Benitez, a psychology major who participated in the Day Without Immigrants, agreed.
“Even if some families could afford to not work for a day, they could have risked job security. Especially because there are employers that do not think peaceful protests are excusable, or they may hold differing political views,” said Benitez.
After the protest, NBC news and other media outlets mentioned that companies in Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma and New York were fi ring employees because they missed work to participate in the protest.
The majority of the tweets that I saw in support of the strike came from owners of restaurants and chains, mostly accomplished individuals who were immigrants or children of immigrants.
These people can financially carry the burden of participating in such an event but are not the majority of people affected.
When standing in solidarity, there is a fine line between what you are willing to do for yourself and what is best for your family.
Some restaurants said they supported their employees but still insisted on shifts being filled on that Thursday, according to NBC news. Others closed in solidarity with their immigrant employees.
“If participating in a political movement or activity is important to the student, they should seek out their employers and at least discuss it with them,” said Benitez.
“My advice to immigrant students: you never know what they will or will not allow if you never ask.”
Does that mean that one should only participate in protests when it’s safe for them, and does that defeat the purpose of a protest?
Everyone should have the equal right to speak out on basic human rights and bring their thoughts to the table, but it shouldn’t cost their job.