“We contribute to others who see us as the criminals.”
On May 1, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are going on strike across the country to demonstrate their resistance to the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration. Workers have also planned a a general mass strike this May Day.
On Monday, many who are undocumented are raising their voices to stand against Trump’s threats of mass deportation, showing that their absence from the workforce — even for one day — can crater work productivity since the U.S. workforce includes eight million undocumented immigrants.
President Donald Trump has followed through on many of his campaign promises to make life more difficult for immigrants, including signing executive orders broadening the scope of crimes punishable by deportation, requesting more money from the congressional budget to hold more immigrants in detention centers, and filling up his administration with immigration hardliners. He previously characterized immigrants as rapists, murderers, and drug dealers, though he said he would provide a narrow exemption for a few “good ones.”
Gilda Blanco, a Garifuna immigrant from Guatemala and an organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, will be striking in Seattle, Washington for Monday’s strike in part because she says she wants immigrants to receive the dignity she didn’t get when she worked as a domestic worker. She also wants to lift up the national conversation on immigration enforcement to include black immigrants like her who already face more contact with the criminal justice system.
“I’m here to raise my voice, to send a message of a voice of our people,” Blanco told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. “Our women are working in big houses of the people who are rich. Those women are there caring for children, cleaning their houses, and still facing abuse in those houses.”
Roughly two million people work as domestic workers in the United States in a range of household services such as nannies, housekeepers, cooks, and laundry workers. Their abuses sometimes go unseen because they are excluded from basic labor protections, so they can be fired without justification or paid very little by abusive employers. Abuse can also happen to people on valid visas like au pairs who illegally work long hours without pay.
The strike, which is expected to disrupt the work flow across various industries reliant on immigrant labor, is meant to show the necessity of immigrants to a country whose president has been openly hostile to their presence. Some immigrants are using the strike as a way to defiantly stand together to demonstrate that their need for respect outweighs their fear of mass deportation policies.
“We have to show up because this is something we can demand respect for our families,” Blanco said. “As human beings, we beg for respect. We naturally have respect for others and we are demanding respect for our families too. As leaders in our community, we have to protect the undocumented immigrants because it’s chaotic.”
Similar to the “A Day without Immigrants” action in February, the strike will take place across the country and in a variety of different industries.
“One day without immigrants means a lot,” Blanco said, hoping that the strike would be a visible way to show how the country looks without immigrants. “We move the economy for this country. We work hard to create a better life for this country, but the opportunity is not coming to us. We contribute to others who see us as the criminals.”
Blanco is a green card holder, but she said she now feels just as scared for her life under the Trump administration as she had for the 16 years she lived as an undocumented immigrant. Even though she is on her way to becoming a citizen, Trump’s policy still makes Blanco worry the president could pass legislation to harm the immigrant population as a whole.
“The Trump [administration] is obviously bad — it’s attacking directly the immigrant community, no matter if you’re undocumented or with documents,” Blanco said. “His policies seek to attack us as criminals, as people who came here to destroy America. We are not that. We are not that person who he qualifies as the bad people in this country.”
“All of us — we are under Trump’s attacks,” Blanco added.
On May Day, immigrants go on strike to prove their worth was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.