Our day without immigrants

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, February 22, 2017
While the ‘Day without Immigrants’ protest rocked parts of the nation Thursday, Feb. 16, two businesses in West Liberty also took part in the shut down.

“Iowa se une a la lucha nacional,” read the sign in the window of Acapulco Bakery on Calhoun Street. “Este jueves la panaderia Acapulco estara cerrada en apoyo a la protesta.”

Translation: Iowa joins the national fight, this Thursday Acapulco bakery will be closed in support of the protest.

The march in Des Moines drew more than 2,500 people and shut down around 70 Latino run businesses in protest of U.S. President Donald Trump.

In West Liberty, 150 miles west of the state capitol, the action was a little more tame. There was no march, but there were several inconvenienced community members.

“The owners decided to close because they wanted to support immigrants,” says Dolores, who works diligently as a chef in the back of Acapulco.

The bakery is quite the hit in West Liberty, with shelves full of baked goods that are both cheap and delicious. The fresh smell of sweets permeates the air.

“A lot of people asked us why we closed,” she said. “We told them in support of immigration. They reacted good.”

So did she feel like the bakery lost a a lot of business on Thursday?

“No,” she said abruptly. In fact, she’s in support of doing it again, a definite possibility according to a lot of the protestors across the nation.

‘A Day without Immigrants’ aimed to show the value of immigrants for the economy. For a day many immigrants refused to work in order to get their point across.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint a single reason for the boycott, it’s safe to say that U.S. President Donald Trump was a leading cause for the protest.

The day also highlighted the fact that a good chunk of the American workforce is made up of legal and unauthorized immigrants.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2012 there was a total civilian labor force of around 156 million in the United States.

Of that number, 130 million are U.S born while 18.7 million are legal immigrants and nearly 8 million are unauthorized immigrants, that’s 5.1 percent of the workforce.

In West Liberty around 52.2 percent of population acknowledges to having some Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. This is according to a Comprehensive Plan Update prepared by HBK Engineering just lat year.

In fact, Conesville is the only other city with higher percentage of Latino/Hispanic Americans in the State of Iowa. Hispanic/Latino people account for around 2,000 residents in West Liberty.

Also located downtown, Maria's' Restaurant closed its doors. Maria Luna wanted to take stand with her restaurant, which brings in quite a haul of people on weekdays.

“I feel bad about what’s going on, about how families are being torn apart and how they’re left behind without husbands and wives,” says Luna.

She immigrated from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico around 40 years ago and has made a good life for herself and her husband here in West Liberty.

“There’s nothing we can do but support, so by me closing I’m supporting the immigrants,” says Luna. “I’m showing my support to my people.”

Lunchtime is usually a busy time for the relatively new restaurant. Couple that with the fact that there was no school and Maria's turned away quite a crowd on Thursday.

But just like the bakery, Luna doesn’t look at it as a day of lost business. She wanted to do her part in supporting immigrants. This was her avenue of protest.

“I know that I would lose money by closing and I wouldn’t gain anything, but to me it’s how I show support,” says Luna, “It’s more for me, I feel like I did something.”

However, Luna does admit that to be truly effective a Day without Immigrants should probably be more like a Week without Immigrants.

She may get her wish. There are rumors amongst the media that this is only the beginning of immigrant protest across the country, that this day may only be the first day.

If that’s true, both Acapulco Bakery and Maria's Restaurant have shown their willingness to get involved. The question is how many other West Liberty businesses will do the same.
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