‘A day without immigrants’ protesters rally at Love Park to demand reform on Valentine’s Day


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Activist Ivonne Pinto marches as demonstrators made their way around Philadelphia City Hall. The rally, A Day Without Immigrants, started at Love Park and worked its way around City Hall to the Municipal Services Building where people spoke  on Monday, February 14, 2022. Many are frustrated with President Joe Biden’s failure to fulfill his promises to immigrants.

‘A day without immigrants’ protesters rally at Love Park to demand reform on Valentine’s Day

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Immigrants in the Philadelphia area joined the nationwide “Day Without Immigrants” protests Monday without jobs, schools, or consumer purchases to demonstrate their vital role in society and their response to the lack of systemic federal reforms. Disappointed.

About 50 people — families, supporters and advocacy groups — rallied at Love Park in Central City on a frigid 20-degree midday. A second demonstration is also planned outside the Upper Darby Municipal Building.

Other rallies are expected in front of the White House and in at least 15 cities, calling for action on immigration reform — notably for President Joe Biden to keep his promise to create a pathway to citizenship for America’s 11 million undocumented people.

“I’m not buying anything today,” said Analine Ceron, 30, who immigrated to Philadelphia from Mexico and attended the rally on a cold 20-degree morning. “This message was for the administration — Biden. He promised immigration reform. Nothing happened.”

Organizers are marking Monday’s event as one of the biggest sales holidays of the year, with consumers expected to spend on Valentine’s Day cards, candy, dinner, jewelry and gifts, according to the National Retail Federation, a Washington-based trade association. $23.9 billion, and data firm Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Overall spending on Valentine’s Day is close to that of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter.

“Our community pays millions of dollars in sales every day,” said Maria Serna, an organizer of the Philadelphia rally. “We want to move forward with a massive national campaign.”

According to the U.S. Immigration Council, U.S. immigrant-dominated households had about $1.3 trillion in spending power in 2019, defined as collective after-tax income. They paid about $331 billion in federal taxes and $162 billion in state and local taxes.

Undocumented households paid about $19 billion in federal taxes and nearly $12 billion in state and local taxes that year, the commission said.

Regular national “A Day Without Immigrants” rallies, including rallies in Philadelphia in 2006 and 2017.

Today, 14 percent of Philadelphia’s 1.6 million residents are immigrants, according to census data. They fueled the city’s population growth after a half-century of decline and spurred the creation of new businesses before the pandemic swept the globe.

A 2018 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that the city’s foreign-born population rose 69 percent from 2000 to 2016, to more than 232,000. Approximately 390,000 residents are immigrants or have immigrant parents.

Over the past two years, the pandemic has exposed America’s reliance on immigrant workers, critical for everything from food supplies to health care. Many nurses, doctors and medical technicians who grew up in the United States are still providing first-line treatment to patients under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Some immigrant-run businesses will close on Valentine’s Day to demonstrate the importance of their labor, goods and services. Others have stayed open, saying two years of pandemic losses have prevented them from rejecting receipts and keeping workers from losing wages.

“We support this rally, but like businesses, we have to be open,” said Juan Carlos Romero, who runs Philly tacos and leads the Mexican Business Association, which represents businesses in South Philadelphia, including those in the Italian market. enterprise. “We have to work.”

He noted that he is as committed to immigration reform as anyone else.

A Day Without Immigrants seeks to join all immigrants, young and old, new and established, documented and undocumented, to drive change. A year into Biden’s inauguration, many grassroots groups and advocates have become very frustrated with the administration’s failure to turn its promises into reality.

A narrower version of the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which bars asylum seekers from entering the United States while waiting for a date in immigration court, continues to operate. Biden’s plan to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants has not worked out, and to make matters worse, advocates say, he appears to have stopped pushing.

“Most people in the Pennsylvania immigrant rights movement feel that the Biden administration has failed us,” said Andy Kang, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. Some members of the coalition plan to rally on Monday. “We haven’t seen the White House commit to a different vision of immigration than one based on locking people up.”

He said that even if Biden is blocked legislatively, a lot could be done with executive orders and policy changes.

Instead, he noted, the Government continued to enforce so-called Article 42. Trump and now Biden have banned and deported thousands of asylum seekers on the grounds of protecting public health despite assurances from experts that people can be handled safely.

“People’s trust in this political system is eroding,” said Dessie Burnett, the statewide coordinator for the immigrant group MILPA, who was among the parents who kept their children out of school on Monday. “It is frustrating and outrageous that neither party can ensure the safety, dignity, respect and well-being of immigrant families.”

She sees “A Day Without Immigrants” as part of a rising movement for action.

“This is a call to everyone, not just the immigrant community,” she said. “We need everyone to stay in this government to ensure citizenship for 11 million people. It doesn’t just take immigrant communities to make it happen.”

Stringent immigration policies have kept undocumented numbers relatively stable, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. Migrants cannot leave and return easily, so they stay — often with human costs, separating families and preventing people from helping sick parents here, or even attending their funerals.

Advocates point out that undocumented individuals lead American lives as taxpayers, neighbors and colleagues. About 1.6 million people are married to U.S. citizens and another 675,000 are married to lawful permanent residents, according to the Washington Immigration Policy Institute.

There are approximately 50,000 undocumented individuals in Philadelphia.

Rally organizer Serna pointed out that Valentine’s Day has a special meaning.

“It’s a time of love,” she said. “The question is whether America’s 11 million immigrants deserve the same love as everyone else.”

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