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Day Without Immigrants Highlights Need for Protections

Organizers say sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia need to do more to protect immigrants. (Rdsmith4/Wikimedia Commons)
Organizers say sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia need to do more to protect immigrants. (Rdsmith4/Wikimedia Commons)
February 17, 2017

PHILADELPHIA - Organizers used Thursday's "Day Without Immigrants" to highlight that, even in sanctuary cities, stronger policies are needed to protect immigrant communities.

In cities around the country, many immigrants and their supporters stayed away from work and school to protest the Trump administration's anti-immigrant policies. Although Philadelphia has vowed not to cooperate with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants, Olivia Vazquez, a community organizer with Juntos, said many restaurants and stores in the city were closed for the day.

"This just shows that the community's ready to fight back," she said, "that the community's tired of being criminalized, that the community is tired of their rights being violated."

The Trump administration has said undocumented immigrants take jobs and bring crime, but the Day Without Immigrants was held to show that this population is a vital part of many communities. For immigrants and people of color, Vazquez said, even places such as Philadelphia that have declared themselves "sanctuary cities" are not always safe.

"Communities both black and brown are still being criminalized by police, and ICE is still walking in our streets. They are still raiding houses and taking people away, and separating families."

Vazquez said city and state policies such as so-called "broken windows policing" and inequitable school funding fall most heavily on low-income families, people of color and immigrants. The spirit of the Day Without Immigrants is more than a protest, she said; it's a call to action.

"We need our local officials to do more," she said, "to stand up and fight along our sides to create a true sanctuary city, to expand what 'sanctuary' really is for us."

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Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA