A Day Without Immigrants in Jackson Hole

By on February 16, 2017

(Photos: Robyn Vincent)

JACKSON HOLE, WY — More than 100 Jacksonites, a number of high school students among them, braved frigid temps outside Jackson Hole High School this morning in support of the valley’s immigrant populace for a “Day Without Immigrants.” People marched almost three miles from the high school to Town Square brandishing signs that read “Your economy and wellness depend on me,” and “I want to die a slave to principles, not to men.”

High school seniors Jamie Vargas and Nesley Corona decided to organize the march yesterday while they were sitting in government class. “My main concern is the separation of families—what will happen if parents are sent away from their kids?” Vargas asked.

Organizers Nesley Corona and Jamie Vargas

Today people across the country are demonstrating how vital immigrants are to local communities, particularly their economies, by staying home and not showing up to work or school. While demonstrations like a Day Without Immigrants are not new on a national level—the Great American Boycott of 2006 had a similar goal—Jackson resident Marlen Nava says this is the first time she has witnessed local participation. And this year, under President Trump, she says it is especially important for immigrants and allies to come together and communicate the value of immigrants in the U.S. “It’s not until we speak up that our voices will be heard,” Nava said.

Some local businesses heard the message. Persephone and Picnic closed their kitchens today.

“Honestly this is the voice of my immigrant employees” said Ali Cohane, owner of Persephone and Picnic. “They felt comfortable with us as employers to tell us that they planned to participate in this demonstration, and we chose to support them.”

Cohane continued, “I feel indebted to the people who work for us, the least I could do was allow them the day to express themselves and let their often silent voices be heard/felt. We also are indebted to the wonderful community in Jackson that chooses to be our customers and I wanted to let my customers know what was happening. This community … can accomplish what it does much in part to its diversity, and we need to celebrate this.”

Managers at other restaurants that are staying open, such as Osteria where Nava works, are showing their support by calling in other employees to work. “Let the white boys work today,” said Matty Melehes, head chef at Q Roadhouse.

“Someone needs to be there for business,” said Osteria manager Willie Rosenthal, “but they need to be here,” he said, gesturing to demonstrators.

Business owner Manuel Garcia shut down his company 307 Builders today. “We [immigrants] are the labor, the labor is ours,” he said. “We need that in order for the community to grow.”

García immigrated here 20 years ago when he was just 17 years old. He “started from the bottom,” he said, working long hours in laborious jobs. He is one of the first Latinos to launch his own contracting business in Jackson

“I consider this place my country,” García said. “I feel like I’m contributing to my community.”

Echoing a sign carried in the march, García reenforced that most immigrants “don’t come here to steal, they come to work.”

Demonstrator Juan Morales was quick to point out that Jackson, and the United States as a whole, runs on immigrants. “One day without immigrants … kind of shows how much there is to lose, and how much of the fabric of American life we are,” he said.

Before marching, people chanted “Sin nostoros, este pais se paraliza” (Without us, this country is paralyzed), and “Si, se puede” (Yes, we can).

The turnout in Jackson Hole was bigger than expected, Morales said, and local participants were among thousands that marched across the country.

A Day Without Immigrants is a nationwide response to Trump’s immigration policies, which include a promise to build a wall along the Mexican border, and a travel ban from seven majority Muslim countries that included all refugees. The ban was deemed unconstitutional by more than one federal judge (the case is likely to head to the Supreme Court), but Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric surrounding immigration was a staple of his campaign and is now a dominant narrative of his presidency. A statement on a national Facebook event page asserts that the demonstration today is a chance to “come together and unite in absolute resistance in order to reject the system dictating the launch from dehumanization and blatant oppression of those that are not straight, white, natural-born citizens.”

People of all nationalities were encouraged to participate in solidarity.

“We, the nation’s immigrants, sons and daughters of immigrants and immigrant supporters, will be demonstrating how crucial we are to the basic fundamentals of the United States’ economy,” the Facebook page reads. “They don’t like immigrants? Let’s give them a break for one day.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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