Austin immigrants forgo work for protests on “Day Without Immigrants”



Fueled by a larger national movement called “A Day Without Immigrants,” dozens of immigrant workers and business owners did not go to work, opting instead to march to the capitol and city hall to demonstrate the importance of their contribution to the economy.

Hundreds protesters gathered at Austin City Hall Feb. 16 in opposition to President Trump’s immigration policies and recent state legislation that has resulted in a series of raids conducted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

“There are a lot of businesses that are closing today and I think it’s great that as a community we’re standing together for one another that’s what community is all about,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said.

Adler, along with several of city council members, stood in the middle of a thick crowd early afternoon, shaking hands with students and families at the demonstration.

“I just think it’s important for the community to stand up and say what they believe,” Adler said. “It’s good to know that students are as engaged today as when I was a student way back when. So I just wanted to be here to say hello and lend support.“

Teenagers from all over the city held signs up to passing cars on Cesar Chavez street and waved Mexican and U.S flags at the traffic, eliciting honks and shouts from commuters.

Several teens from Hutto, Texas located about 30 minutes north of Austin, stood together atop a slab of rock holding signs and shouting with the rest of the crowd, including Karina Rosas, a senior at Hutto High School. Like hundreds of other students across the state, Rosas and her friends skipped school to show their solidarity with the movement.

“We just feel that it’s important that everyone knows that we are together and we’re one and together we stand,” Rosas said. “America isn’t America without its people and we need to stand united, we can’t divide ourselves.”

Unaware there would be protests, Austin City Council member Delia Garza said she had gone to work that day, but used her break time to show support of her “mostly hispanic district” of Southeast Austin.

“I understand the anxiety and the fear that so many of them are dealing with and I hope they know that unfortunately at our state level there seems to be an attack on our immigrant families,” Garza said. “At our local level we 100 percent support them and we’re doing everything in our powers to make sure that they’re protected and make sure that they feel safe in this community.”

Garza stood in the middle of the crowd with a megaphone expressing her support of the movement, admitting that she didn’t know spanish well, but that she “spoke spanish in her heart” and that she was doing as much as she could to protect immigrants’ rights.

“It was important to come out to let people know they have local elected officials that look like them, that support them… that they are just as much a part of this community as anybody else and we will continue to advocate for them. They are the people who are the backbone of this community,” Garza said.

“I really feel that if every single immigrant had not gone to work today, every restaurant would be shut down, almost every daycare would be shut down, so many necessary things in our city would have stopped and I think it’s important for our community to really realize how our immigrant community contributes to our society.”