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Latinos support a Day Without Immigrants protest at City Hall

Immigrant workers and families shouted from the steps of Kansas City, Missouri City Hall, “We’re America” and “Yes We Can” as they sent a message to President Donald Trump that America needs immigrants and immigrants businesses. In a nation wide protest, Latino business owners were encouraged to shut their doors last Thursday and immigrants were encouraged to not show up for work, not to send their children to school, and not spend money to show President Donald Trump the impact immigrants have on the national economy.

About 500 people, mostly Hispanics, in the metropolitan area held signs with messages of ‘Solidarity’ and ‘We Are Chasing the American Dream’ and ‘We are all America’ in a show of unity with other cities as they held “A Day Without Immigrants.”

Maria Mondendro decided to attend the rally rather than go to work. She was willing to lose a day’s wage so that she could send a message to President Donald Trump that he is making wrong choices.

“We are human beings and we have rights. The president is doing a lot of wrong things right now. I am an American citizen and it is important for me to be here and give my support. Immigrants are here working hard and doing the best for their families. It is not right to send them back… it is not human. It is ok to deport the people that are not doing the right things,” she said.

President Trump pledged during his run for office and in his inauguration speech that he would increase deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally and has vowed that he will build a border wall along the Mexican border.

As he has implemented his Executive Orders to temporarily bar refugees from seven majority Muslim countries from coming into the United States, other immigrants are now living in fear that he will be true to his word and families may face deportation and have to leave their children behind.

Guadalupe Marcela Banuelos, a business owner in the Westside, chose to close her business last Thursday to show her support for immigrants gathering at the protest.

“I closed today because my husband was separated from us for two years. It took him more than two years to get his papers. I know what it is like to have your family separated … children separated from their parents. My children were separated from their dad for over two years. I know what it is to live with fear,” said Baneulos.

Even though she will have a day of lost income, she feels it is important to stand up for their rights.

“I am going to lose income but this is my way to support our community. I was born here but my parents and grandmother came from Mexico. We are all immigrants and I am supporting not only the present but the past,” she said.

Maria Esther Rogers was born in Mexico and owns a food store in Kansas City West Side. Upon hearing about the protest, she knew she had to close her business for the day.

“I have to support the Latinos so there can be justice for them. I closed my store to support the immigrant children and their parents. It is the fault of the Mexico government with all due respect … we would not have a reason to be here in the United States if it wasn’t for a corrupt government in Mexico. There are so many children that are running barefooted and not enough food for them to eat … my heart goes out to them,” she said.

Kansas City Hispanic News drove through the northeast community where 90 percent of Latino owned businesses—restaurants, bakeries, and retail were closed down for the protest, “A Day without Immigrants.”

When Carlos Gomez, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO learned about the protest in Kansas City, he told Hispanic News that from the Chamber’s standpoint, they needed businesses to be open.

“We respect the right of people to make a statement and if they chose to close we would support that. We respect and support any of our brothers, sisters, family and friends out there that are going to close,” said Gomez.

He knows that the Latino community has the right to stand up and speak out, but he feels the immigrant community could make a stronger statement if they designated a day without spending.

“Hispanics spend $1.5 trillion dollars a year in the United States, which is the 12th largest economy in the world. If they just didn’t spend money on one day that would send a bigger message,” said Gomez.

Augustine Juarez, owner of Los Alamos restaurant on the Westside, kept his doors open. Closing his restaurant doors were not an option for him as he has employees and their families who depend on their paychecks to be able to care for their families.

“We can be here and be open and we can protest in different ways. I can’t shut the doors, there are a lot of people that depend on me. I will support them in a different way, but I don’t think closing our business doors will make any difference,” he said.

Jack Rees, a customer at Los Almos restaurant, had not heard about the Day Without Immigrant protest but felt it was important for immigrants to express themselves.

“What is happening in our country right now is the worst possible thing. We are all immigrants except for the Indians that were here when we came. I absolutely support any protest against the borderline racist rhetoric that is coming out of Washington,” said Rees.

As a small business owner himself, he understands the hardship the Latino businesses faced that day trying to decide whether to stay open or close.

“I support the people who chose not to protest and I support the ones who did protest. It is an economic hardship to close down, it is a day’s worth of income that is a real thing, and it is not a joke, so I think everyone gets to choose what they wanted to do. I hope there is no repercussions for the Hispanic community that chose not to close,” he said.

Attending the protest, 13-year-old Sol Lopez and her 14-year-old brother Oscar, who haven’t seen their dad in several years, held signs stating ‘they lost one parent and don’t want to lose another’ hope that the protest will draw attention to unfair immigration orders and they can reunite with their father.

Their dad has been deported twice from the United States—in 2012 and 2013 and sent back to Mexico. They are growing up without their father in their lives.

“We are here to stand up for the rights of Latinos. We are here legally but we are standing up for those that don’t have papers and are afraid to come out and fight for their rights,” said Oscar Lopez.

Adding to his comment, his 13-year-old sister Sol Lopez said, “We hope to see the laws changed not just for us but for everyone in the community.”

Shawn Delgado, Organizer for the International Union Painters, Drywall Finishers and Glazers Council #3 in Kansas City, handed out Solidarity posters to those attending the protest. He is originally from Columbia and is a United States citizen and he told Hispanic News when he came here “it was easier to become a citizen than it is now. There was a process to it at that time that I went through to accomplish that.’”

Standing with the hundreds of people at the protest, he hopes that it sends a message that they all have rights.

“It is a show of support for immigrants from all over the world because our union works and supports immigrants from everywhere, especially the Latino community. I have been doing this job for a little over a year and we have about 150 Latinos working in our union, having good benefits for them and their families and that is the reason why I am here is to show solidarity for our immigrants,” said Delgado.