No School, No Work, No Shopping. Did Anyone Notice?

By Laurel Adams

On February 16, 2017 millions of immigrants and sympathizers participated in a national “Day Without Immigrants” event.  No shopping, no school, no work.  The hope was to emphasize the economic and social contribution of immigrants to the United States.  The movement was in response to Trump’s immigration agenda, which included the border wall and a travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries (currently on hold).  Stores, restaurants, and other businesses as well as schools were affected. 
I was curious.  I’m a middle aged white woman living in a small town (the BEST small town, but still–) of 5,500 and I had no idea this was even a thing.  I wanted to know what this was, why this was happening, and what, exactly, were they trying to accomplish?
Fortunately, I have friends.  After I called around, one of them, after a little thought, put me in touch with exactly the right people.  Bless their hearts, they invited me into their beautiful home and shared some of their thoughts and experiences with me while sitting around the dining room table.  I was introduced to cousins, daughters, dogs, and made welcome.
Thank you, so much, for allowing me to come to your home and talk to you about this.  I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be in your shoes, but I do know it takes courage to make a stand.  Did you go to work today?
Actually, I did.  One of us did and one of us didn’t.
Do you know, exactly, why you were asked to make a commitment to doing this? 
I do know most of the story.  I’ve been studying.  All Latinos, citizens or not, were asked to not shop, don’t go to work, don’t go to school. 
Trump, he’s trying to get rid of all the bad people.  That’s a good thing.  But what about the kids?  Who’s gonna take care of the kids when their parents – good people – are deported too?

Does Trump scare you?
Some.  We all have concerns in our life and he makes us feel helpless.  What can we do?  Is he going to start World War III?
Is there going to be another event like this one?
I think there’s going to be a march Saturday in Boise.
Was it scary, staying home?  Are you worried about keeping your job?
I think there’s going to be a problem because I hear that one of the bosses was going to suspend the people that did not work.  It was a little scary, yes.
How many people did not show up?
It was about half the workers.
How did you decide to do this?  What made you say “We have to do something”? 
Talking to most of the people there, we decided we have to show the government – they have to know – that we count.  We all pay taxes, we all contribute, we have the same deductions that you do. 
Do you feel that it did make a difference?
The only way we would know is if we see the dollars lost when we stayed home.  If they are short, they can make us work Sunday to make it up.  They can make us work but they will still know.  We just wanted to tell them what was going on in real life.
Was this just at your work or was this a bigger thing?
NO.  No, this was national.  Buildings in Ontario, companies, restaurants.  It was a national thing and we wanted to join everybody else.
Was it left up to everybody on their own, whether to go to work or not?
We talked on break and after work – on our time – so the bosses would not know.  We didn’t want to force anyone to do what they didn’t want to do.  But it was half the place that stayed home. 
What do you hope will happen?
My personal place, I’ve been working most of my life, paying taxes.  I have my own house.  That stuff that they say –  we got welfare, that’s a lie.  You have to show a social security number now.  They deduct money for Social Security, income tax, FICA, just like you.  We are not criminals.  We just have to make our living better. 
I have talked to my neighbors, told him a whole bunch of times.  We show our pay stubs, W2’s.  We contribute to this country same as you guys.  We just want to let them know that we are here.
Were you born here? 
No, I came when I was 16.  I’ve been here a long time.
Have you always been here in Weiser
Yes, most of the time.  I didn’t graduate because I had to work.  My ex-wife got pregnant so I had to get out and work.  
Do you have a lot of family here?
Yeah, I got a lot of family in Weiser.  They’ve been here since the early ‘40s.  They used to work on the railroad tracks back then.  One of my relatives used to run the labor camp here in Weiser.  He ran it for a lot of years. 
So are you married?  Kids? 
Married, two teenagers still in school.  The oldest is a senior and works too.
Do your children understand what you did and why?
They understand.  They know I want my kids to have a good life. 
Tell me about your life.
We’re not rich.  We’re not poor.  We have a good life, just working.  We don’t owe anybody nothing.
What’s your message?  What do you want people to know?
Everybody is descended from immigrants.  Ours are from Mexico – so what?  What’s the problem?  Everyone is an immigrant.  The only problem is the skin color.  Every culture is good and bad.  Muslim bad, all Spanish good?  No.  Everybody makes mistakes.  We make mistakes, we have defects.  Everyone does.  But we all contribute.  I’m proud of my family.  No criminals, all hard workers.  We are good people.  Mi casa es su casa.  We welcome.  We don’t listen when people say “you have to be careful.”  We learn the laws and rules.  We remember where we come from.  This makes me very proud to be Latin/Latina.  I’m very proud of my black hair!
We are strong people.  We leave our country, our people, our culture to come here, learn new culture, new language.  We have jobs, we are raising our kids as good as we can.  We adapt.  My daughter is in the Army.  They have a huge Latino force.  Our children die, too.
            No human being is illegal.
Per the Center for American Progress, 2010:
The Total $$:     $285 billion       To deport the undocumented immigrant population, continue border interdiction, and interior enforcement efforts over a five-year period.
How it Spends: $85 billion         To continue enforcement over a five-year period.
$200 billion       Total cost to find, arrest, detain, legally process, and transport the undocumented ($23,482/person)
$158 billion       Apprehension cost ($18,310/person)
$29 billion         Detention cost (one person, 30 days, $3,355)
$34 billion         Construction costs to meet new demand of more than double the current population of U.S. jails.
$7 billion           Legal processing costs (cost of one proceeding:  $817)
$6 billion           Transportation costs ($1,000 per person for 6.22 million people)
This means $922 in new taxes for every man, woman, child in the country.
This means $5100 fewer dollars for the education of every public and private school student from prekindergarten to the 12th grade.
The People:      10.8 million       Undocumented immigrants in the United States according to estimates by DHS.
                        8.64 million       Number subject to forcible deportation.
2.16 million       Estimated number of undocumented immigrants that would leave the United States before any contact with the authorities.
Economic Policy Institute, August, 2014
Do Unauthorized Immigrants Increase Budget Costs for State and Federal Governments?
Unauthorized immigration actually reduces overall budget deficits because unauthorized immigrants contribute more to the system than they take out.  Why?  Typically, they cannot receive benefits from government programs because of their immigrant status.  They pay taxes – sales tax, property taxes, payroll and income taxes. The Social Security Administration estimates that 75 percent of unauthorized immigrants are on payrolls, either using fraudulent Social Security numbers or Social Security numbers of the deceased which means they pay into Social Security via automatic payroll deductions, but they can never claim the benefits. In 2005, it was estimated that unauthorized immigrants paid about $7 billion per year in Social Security taxes that they will never be able to reclaim. 
They’re also unlikely to receive any income credits available through the tax code OR to get a tax refund if they overpaid in their regular payroll withholdings. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 78 percent of American households that earned less than $33,000 owed no federal income taxes in 2011.  Because of their low income levels, many unauthorized immigrants would likely fall into either of these categories. A significant portion of unauthorized immigrants file taxes using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs); however, many don’t file because they fear deportation. If they don’t file, they are never refunded money that was automatically withheld from their paychecks.
My opinion (you knew it was coming, right?)  I’m not pretending to have all of the answers – psh – there are a lot of people way smarter than me who have been trying to figure this out for a long time and they haven’t succeeded yet either.  I DO know that there is more that makes us the same than what makes us different.  I also know that these people are my friends, my family, and part of my beloved community.  I know when I drive past the schools and the kids are outside, they are a swirling tornado of different sizes, shapes and colors.  All different, all equal, all beautiful.
My hope is that we can get a grasp on this.  Closing off borders seems contradictory to everything I’ve ever been taught about “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free –“  not to mention  “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me ..”
I know that there are a million factors that have to be considered, and weighed, and balanced, and decided upon.  I know we must protect America and her citizens and that part of this is fiscal responsibility (estimates for “the wall” are now $21 billion – seriously???) but holy WOW this money (and let’s not forget the $285 billion mentioned above) could, surely, be better spent.
Whether you agree or disagree, I’ve enjoyed writing this article.  I don’t expect to change your mind and you probably won’t change mine and both of those are perfectly okay.  If you disagree, print it out and use it as bird cage liner or to housebreak your puppy or whatever.  I don’t mind.

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