Editorial: Standing with our immigrant neighbors

York Dispatch
  • A Day Without Immigrants highlighted valuable contributions.
  • Immigrants contribute to every facet of American life.

A Day Without Immigrants this past Thursday was a poignant reminder of what is lost when we marginalize our immigrant population in this country.

A rally in support of "A Day Without Immigrants" was held Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at Philadelphia's Municipal Services Bldg, on Thomas Paine Plaza , in front of the "Government of the People" statue. Immigrants around the U.S. stayed home from work and school Thursday to demonstrate how important they are to America’s economy, and many businesses closed in solidarity, in a nationwide protest called A Day Without Immigrants.  (Ed Hille/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

The national event was a protest in which immigrants stayed home from work and school to show the void left in their absence.

It worked.

According to The Associate Press, the heart of Philadelphia’s Italian Market was uncommonly quiet. Fine restaurants in New York, San Francisco and the nation’s capital closed for the day. Grocery stores, food trucks, coffee shops, diners and taco joints in places including Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston shut down.

A day without immigrants

The protest was in response to President Donald Trump's travel ban, talk of a Mexican border wall and campaign and policy rhetoric of increased deportation of undocumented workers across the country.

Other awareness-raising events have taken place, as well.

Starting Thursday, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts removed all of the art created by immigrants from its exhibits. The exhibit runs through President's Day weekend.

The photos are a stark reminder of the bleak, and rather empty, nature of our experience in this country without the artistic contributions of our immigrant brothers and sisters.

The Davis Museum's "Without Immigrants" exhibit has a hashtag: #Art-Less.

Contributions: In fact, immigrants have built this country. They have contributed to the economic, cultural and scientific tapestry of the United States.

They are the historic foundation of who we are. They continue to sustain our economy and advancement.

So for our immigrant neighbors to now feel as if their country will no longer have them is a heartbreak.

“I fear every day whether I am going to make it back home. I don’t know if my mom will make it home,” said Hessel Duarte, a 17-year-old native of Honduras who lives in Austin, Texas, with his family and skipped class at his high school to take part in one of several rallies held around the U.S. as part of A Day Without Immigrants. Duarte told The Associated Press he arrived in the U.S. at 5 to escape gang violence.

There is no doubt the hyped-up campaign rhetoric has sown seeds of fear among some Americans, resulting in extreme "othering" in response to talk of "extreme vetting."

The Associated Press on Friday morning reported that the Trump administration was planning to mobilize National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants for deportation, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo.

Compassion: Most of us, of course, are descended from immigrants. Case in point: Dale Earnhardt Jr., who earlier this month tweeted in response to a fan, an immigrant who was expressing the pain he feels because of the current political climate.

"@GelarBudidarma my fam immigrated from Germany in 1700s escaping religious persecution. America is created by immigrants."

When asked by a reporter what motivated the tweet — essentially, was it a political statement — Earnhardt said, "I felt like I wanted to show some compassion ... I felt that guy needed someone."

We can't add a thing to that, except our admiration for a famous race car driver who didn't have to put himself out there like that — but did so anyway.