A Day without Immigrants demonstration hit home in Lawrence and the surrounding areas as businesses felt the effects, and protests were staged in front of City Hall in Kansas City, Missouri. But for one local protestor, Miguel Lopez, participating in the nationwide protest was a necessity.
“It was very good because we went and saw that there are many Spanish people supporting this meeting and supporting the immigrant people in this country,” Lopez said. “It was our meeting with Mr. President Donald Trump.”
Lopez is an immigrant from Mexico. He has worked as a cook and lived in Lawrence for six years. But while Lopez kept his job, hundreds of others across the nation were not so lucky.
“I was afraid,” Lopez said. “But even if I had lost my job, the cause could not be postponed. We are all immigrants, together, supporting this cause.”
While the nationwide protest was the first of its kind, to University of Kansas sociology professor and immigration researcher Cecilia Menjívar, a tense immigration climate and stigmatization of immigrants is not new. It features a different ethnic group this time around.
“This has historical precedence,” Menjívar said. “What is new now is this continued stigmatization and more and more laws that push people to be seen as criminals. We also have a much more enhanced and amplified enforcement system today that, together with the laws that are being passed, I think is significantly different.”
Immigrants make up more than 13 percent of the United States’ overall population. Both Menjívar and Lopez said they know more laws concerning immigration are on the way, and the protests are only the beginning.
“For Latino immigrants, yes, there is more stigma, especially because laws have pushed the foundation of crime with being an immigrant, especially of Latin American origin and especially immigrants working in particular sectors of the economy,” Menjívar said. “So when you have that confluence, more Latino immigrants are criminalized, so that is very stigmatizing.”
That’s the message Lopez hoped the country would receive, emblazoned proudly on his sign — “We are not criminals, we are workers.”