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Immigrants were often the backbone of the U.S. amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Adrian Childress

Philly and the country joins the 2022 ‘Day Without Immigrants’

Demonstrations were out in force in LOVE Park and in cities across the U.S., as the Biden admin remains moot on immigration reform.

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On Monday, Feb. 14, immigrants in Philadelphia participated in the national “A Day Without Immigrants” protests, skipping work and school and refusing to purchase goods. 

About 50 people, families, supporters and advocacy group leaders, rallied at LOVE Park in Center City, marching to circle City Hall, then sharing calls to action at the Municipal Services Building. 

Thirty-year-old Analine Ceron, who immigrated to Philadelphia from Mexico and joined the LOVE Park rally, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she was abstaining from buying anything for the day. 

“The message is for the government, Biden. He promised immigration reform. Nothing is happening,” Ceron said. 

Protests were scheduled in front of the White House and in at least 15 cities, including San Francisco, California, Raleigh, South Carolina, Boston, Massachusetts, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Organizers set the event for Valentine’s Day, as it is one of the biggest sales holidays of the year. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers spent $23.9 billion on gifts for partners, friends, pets, and more. 

“Our communities pay millions of dollars in sales every day. We deserve the same love they show to other families,” Maria Serna, rally organizer, told the Philadelphia Inquirer

According to the American Immigration Council, in 2019, immigrant-led families in the United States possessed about $1.3 trillion in spending power, and they paid about $331 billion in federal taxes and $162 billion in state and local taxes. 

Undocumented families also contributed to taxes that same year, with $19 billion in federal taxes and almost $12 billion in state and local taxes. 

Yet undocumented migrants are excluded from government safety nets like unemployment benefits, and were barred from receiving federal stimulus payments that were a lifeline for many Americans during the pandemic. 

Today, 14% of Philadelphia’s 1.6 million residents are immigrants. They have boosted the city’s population growth after a half-century of declines, and drove the creation of new businesses. 

The pandemic has made it clear that the nation relies on immigrant workers, who are essential to everything from food production to healthcare. 

Sixty-nine percent of all immigrants in the U.S. labor force and 74% of undocumented workers are employed in these essential industries, compared to 65% of the native-born labor force. 

“There’s really no economist that sees a future where we can have enough workers to keep our economy healthy without immigrant workers. And so we really should be giving them all respect and appreciation,” Rep. Andy Levin said during a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 9. 

Several other lawmakers voiced their support for the protesters, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Reps. Joaquin Castro, Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Jimmy Gomez. 

“At a time when many industries say they can’t find workers, this ‘Day Without Immigrants’ sends the message that our economy can’t do without immigrants,” said Rep. García said in a statement on Wednesday.

A year after Biden’s inauguration, many grassroots level organizations and advocates have grown immensely frustrated over the administration’s failure to turn promises into reality. 

For instance, a more narrow version of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, which bans asylum seekers from entering the U.S while awaiting dates in Immigration Court, continues to operate. 

Biden’s plan to provide a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants has reached a dead end, and advocates say he appears to have stopped pushing for it. 

“As someone who came to this country alone at 16, I'm proud to stand with everyone participating in "a day without immigrants." It's time for a pathway to citizenship for all the immigrants who have kept our country going throughout the pandemic,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal wrote on Twitter. 

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