Washington (AFP) – From burger joints to fine eateries, dozens of Washington restaurants shut down Thursday to protest President Donald Trump’s treatment of immigrants.
They did so out of solidarity with the largely low-earning people who staff them or because not enough workers turned up — all part of a nationwide protest called “A Day Without Immigrants,” designed to show how important they are to the US economy.
From New York to Los Angeles, immigrants stayed home from work, kept their kids out of school, avoided buying gas and otherwise tried to illustrate the cost to America of going a day without them.
“I think it’s great, especially that it’s happening here in DC where it directly affects the Trump people,” said Amara Shaker-Brown, 27, who works in a tech company.
“If they want to order lunch, they can see that there’s a direct impact of their immigration policy,” said Shaker Brown, whose grandparents were born in Italy, Lebanon and Ireland. “I am a descendant of immigrants, as almost everybody is in this country.”
The mix of protest, boycott and strike comes as acute fear spreads mainly in Latino communities across the country because of raids that have led to the arrest of hundreds of people without legal status to live in the US.
Some have been summarily deported as Trump says he is making good on a campaign promise to get rid of unauthorized immigrants. Anger also remains over his now-suspended ban on entry of all refugees and people from seven mainly Muslim countries.
In Washington, some restaurants put up signs on their doors explaining they were closing to support their workers.
Edward Burger, 84, a retired doctor, stood reading one of those signs outside a salad shop called Sweetgreen and said the protest was a great idea.
“This question of immigrants and the hospitality of the United States is terribly important, both for them and for us,” said Burger.
Even a food court at the Pentagon was affected, with a Starbucks, Burger King and Taco Bell all closing for lack of staff. “Lunch lines in the operations that remain open will be longer than usual,” a Pentagon statement said.
DC-based Jose Andres — an immigrant from Spain who became an award-winning celebrity chef and built a restaurant empire — closed all but one of his five establishments to show support for workers.
Doors at one of his restaurants, China Chilcano, remained open to customers and offered work to employees who do not wish to protest.
Andres is in a legal battle with Trump that came after the chef pulled out of plans to open a restaurant in the real estate mogul’s Washington hotel. Andres cited the Republican’s anti-immigrant comments on the campaign trail as his reason for backing out.
At least 11 million people are living in the US illegally.
Undocumented immigrants make up about nine percent of employees in the hotel and restaurant industry in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.