NEW YORK — Well over two dozen “Day Without Immigrants” actions took place coast to coast Feb. 14, many demanding amnesty for the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. without government-recognized papers.
The initial call for the actions was made by 23-year-old Carlos Espina, who is popular on the TikTok social media platform. Then Spanish-language television channel Telemundo reported on it. Espina says he supported Joseph Biden during the 2020 elections because of his promise to push for immigration reform, but the president has done nothing since entering the White House.
The call struck a chord among immigrant workers around the country. Most actions were organized by local groups.
When farmworkers in Washington state heard about the actions, they contacted the United Farm Workers union. They were “looking to us and saying, ‘What are we going to do to participate? We want to be part of this movement,’” UFW spokesperson Zaira Sánchez told the press at a rally of over 50 in Pasco, Washington. “So quickly we organized this rally.”
In New York more than 150 people rallied for two hours in subfreezing weather in Times Square. The action was organized by New Immigrant Community Empowerment and backed by construction workers in Laborers Local 79.
“What is significant is that we are here, immigrant workers standing side by side with our brothers from Local 79,” NICE Interim Executive Director Diana Moreno told the crowd. “We are here because we know the power of labor, the power of work. It is our sweat, it is our hands that built this country.” She called for citizenship for all 11 million immigrants without papers.
For McDonald’s worker Ricardo Carranza, 25, it was his first time at an immigrant rights action. “Enough already of being in the shadows,” he told the Militant. “We are tired of working jobs that have low wages and no benefits.”
Maria Izquierdo, 55, works in “whatever I can, construction, cleaning houses, street vending. Without papers we’re more exploited, humiliated, despised,” she said. With legal papers, she said she could apply for higher paying, steady work.
“I have lived here for 20 years, since I was 13 years old,” Local 79 member Isrrael Rodríguez, 33, said. Rodríguez has Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals papers that allow him to work, but not to become a citizen. “Both parties — the Democrats and Republicans — make promises they never keep,” he said. “The union is needed for everybody.”
In Chicago, some 50 people rallied, including factory workers, app-based drivers and fast food workers. Many took turns speaking at an open mic.
“I’m fighting for those with no papers to be able to get out of the shadows,” said Juan Alvarez, an Uber driver who came with a delegation from the Independent Drivers Guild. Members of the group in Chicago, like those in New York and other cities, have been organizing for better wages and conditions and the right to form a union.
The largest action was in Washington, D.C., with nearly 1,000 people, including buses from New Jersey and participants who came from Connecticut and other parts of the Northeast. There were actions in Brewster, New York; Miami; Houston; Dallas; Philadelphia; three cities in Iowa; and several in California, among others.
Immigrant labor is a key source of superprofits for U.S. bosses, who take advantage of those without legal documents to drive down their wages, then use that as a wedge to lower the wages of all workers. The bosses try to weaken the unions by pitting immigrant- and native-born workers against each other.
“The whole working class faces deeper attacks from the bosses,” said Naomi Craine, a rail worker and Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of Illinois, at the Chicago rally. “The labor movement needs to fight for amnesty for all immigrants to put us in a stronger position to unite and organize all workers.”
Dan Fein contributed to this article.