On February 16, hundreds of Indiana residents joined demonstrators across the country in a national strike and participated in a “Day Without Immigrants” in protest against President Trump’s recent efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. Demonstrators opted to stay home from school, work, and even temporarily closed their businesses for the day to show unity with their friends, family members, coworkers, and employees who immigrated to the United States. By not participating in their regular routines, demonstrators hoped to show how immigrants directly contribute towards the lifestyles of American consumers through the goods they produce, services they provide, and jobs they create.
In addition, demonstrators participated in physical marches and gatherings. In Indianapolis, hundreds marched from Garfield Park to the Statehouse where they shared stories with one another and broke into chants. In southern Indiana, participants traveled to Kentucky’s State Capital in Frankfurt where Catholic Charities of Louisville, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Americana World Community Center, and International Center of Kentucky hosted a gathering in unity with the 36 southern Indiana and Kentucky businesses who closed their stores for the day.
Although thousands participated in “Day Without Immigrants” demonstrations across the country, these numbers only modestly reflect the critical role immigrants have on the American economy. For instance, 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are nearly 26.3 million foreign-born workers in the United States, making up 16.7 percent of the American workforce. Further, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that immigrants accounted for 47 percent of the increase in the United States workforce from 2000-2010. Finally, in 2014, Standard & Poor’s finds that both low skilled and highly skilled immigrants complement the existing American-born workforce, and that they are more likely to start their own small businesses which is the true engine of job creation in the American economy. Unfortunately immigrants like Jesus Ramirez who helped organize the march in Indianapolis, currently do not feel that their economic impact is visible or respected by the average American consumer. In order for continued growth windianaithin the American economy, there must be a cultural and political shift away from denigrating American immigrants but instead incentivizing them to continue helping America prosper.