A nationwide movement to pause immigrant labor took place this Valentine’s Day, in an attempt to raise awareness for immigration reform.
Valentine’s Day was strategically selected for the “Day Without Immigrants” protest, as it is a day where an abundance of consumer spending occurs, through labor that is often carried out by immigrants.
As of this writing, more than 2,600 businesses across the U.S. had pledged to close for the day in solidarity with the protest, including 66 New York-based businesses.
Carlos Eduardo Espina has spearheaded the protest efforts, leveraging his 2.5 million TikTok followers into a movement that has garnered lots of attention from Spanish-speaking media. Espina has been posting videos not just of the protest, but about immigration reform efforts, or what he believes is a lack thereof.
“This is a movement that arose from, essentially… the frustrations of thousands, possibly millions of immigrants in the country who are tired of the lies, tired of the false promises and nothing being done on the topic of immigration,” Espina told L.A. Weekly. “I was someone who really used my platform in 2020 to support Joe Biden. All 2021 happened and nothing happened. We waited patiently and no progress was made. Everything remained the same.”
Espina expressed that he and many of his followers have felt frustration over the Biden administration, with what they feel are unfulfilled promises to address immigration reform.
The “Day Without Immigrants” movement has received notable support from the likes of actor Mark Ruffalo and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as more than 93,000 members of a Facebook group created by the protest’s organizers.
Multiple New York landscaping, construction, and home care businesses decided to close for the day.
A noontime march was also organized at Union Square, with hundreds taking time off work and rallying with signs that read “immigrants are essential,” and “excluded no more.”
Concurrently, marches and rallies were held across the country, from right outside the White House gates in Washington D.C., to the Capitol Mall in Sacramento and several cities in between.
Despite the efforts of the protest and rallies, Espina knows that it is not going to be possible for many to miss a day of work, but he hopes the movement is used as a means to catapult the conversation around immigration reform forward.
“The main purpose is to… get people energized again, because right now the morale around immigration reform is on the floor and we want to lift that morale up,” Espina said. “We hope that February 14 is not the end of something, but the beginning of something.”