"Cerrado, Closed” is not something you see every day on South 24th Street businesses. The usual mom-and-pop shops that line 24th Street weren’t catering to customers last Thursday due to a nationwide boycott which was called, “A Day Without Immigrants.”
The silent boycott called for all undocumented immigrants, residents and citizens to not attend work or contribute in any way economically to society.
Some who flock to the 24th Street district for authentic cuisines during lunch had no idea about the boycott and were forced turn elsewhere. Businesses like International Bakery actually printed out signs detailing why they were closing.
The protest was a response to the Trump administration’s promise to crack down on illegal immigration and his pledge to build a wall along the United States-Mexico border.
“This sends a message that Latino impact is great in Omaha and around the nation,” Albert Varas said, Director of the Latino Center of the Midlands. “Latinos are working behind the scenes and are sometimes in the shadows, but people need to see their influence.”
Workers at Nebraska Beef said that management had posted a sign for workers respecting their decision to miss work. If they decided to miss, it wouldn’t count against them.
El Perico reached out to Nebraska Beef for confirmation and a quote about the boycott, but there was no answer. Workers at Tyson Foods also said management supported their decision to not show up for work.
The boycott also pressed for students to skip class and for parents to keep their kids at home from school. Over 800 students from Castelar Elementary, Spring Lake Magnet and Marrs Middle did not report in for school.
“Parents were sending a strong message to the community by not allowing their kids to attend school yesterday,” a source at Castelar Elementary said. “It sends a message that without kids you cannot hire teachers; without kids, schools cannot acquire proper funding for education; and without kids, our schools ultimately cannot function.”
The boycott started through rumors online and on social media. Some major cities all over the U.S. even held rallies and marches to show solidarity with the boycott.
While the economic impact of the boycott remains unclear, several national economic experts have stated that the U.S. economy and workforce would be a "disaster" without immigrants.
According to the Partnership for a New American Economy, based on an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey, immigrants earned $1.3 trillion and contributed $105 billion in state and local taxes and nearly $224 billion in federal taxes in 2014.
Although most South 24th Street businesses were closed, a few had decided to stay open. “The Latino Center of The Midlands made the decision to stay open in support of those who stayed home and didn’t work,” Varas said.
“Some of the services regarding immigration and legal advice that we provide are essential to our community. We will always continue to keep our doors open and continue to develop resources during this tumultuous time.”