Day Without Immigrants to Hit Washington in the Stomach

WASHINGTON — In a city where expense account meals are a central part of power players’ lives, some of Washington’s best-known restaurants will close their doors on Thursday in solidarity with a national campaign to draw attention to the power and plight of immigrants.

The campaign, spread on social media and messaging apps, has called for a “day without immigrants.” It asks foreign-born people nationwide, regardless of legal status, not to go to work or go shopping in a demonstration of the importance of their labor and consumer spending to the United States’ economy.

Activists and groups in cities across the country have picked up the call, reposting fliers found online, and in some cases organizing demonstrations to coincide with the event. Several activists said that they did not know how the campaign began or how many people would heed it, and that as far as they knew, there was no national organization behind it.

But the dining scene in Washington, where the new Trump administration is taking a hard line on immigration and deportation, took notice. At least a few dozen restaurants in and around the Beltway have committed to staying closed on Thursday. Others have said they would offer limited service in the expectation that many of their employees would be out for the day. Some restaurants in other cities, including several of the Blue Ribbon restaurants in New York, have joined in.

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José Andrés, the famed Spanish-born chef who has tangled publicly with President Trump before, said his restaurants Zaytinya and Oyamel, and three Jaleo restaurants, all in the Washington area, would be closed for the day. In 2015, after Mr. Trump made disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants, Mr. Andrés pulled out of an agreement to open a restaurant in Mr. Trump’s new hotel near the White House, and they have since sued each other over the dispute.

Andy Shallal, a native of Iraq, said his popular Busboys and Poets chain of six restaurants in the Washington area would also close on Thursday, and he noted that he is among the more than 40 million people in the United States who came from other countries. “As an immigrant I am proud to stand in solidarity w/ my brothers & sisters,” he wrote on Twitter.

His daughter, Laela Shallal, who manages finance and marketing for the company, said employees could choose between using some of their paid leave on Thursday, or going to work to clean or organize the restaurants and offices.

“We think that this is really something that a lot of our staff feels really passionate about,” she said. “We’re taking their side, so that they feel the company they work for is living up to their values.”

Amaya Sales, a kitchen manager at the Busboys and Poets restaurant in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, said workers first approached management early this week about taking part. “It’s just to, like, show most of America how much important we are to do the hard work in the United States,” Mr. Sales said.

In a city with more than 2,000 restaurants, the day of closures and absences may not be enough to prevent anyone from getting a table. But given the upscale, popular businesses involved, it will be noticed.

An immigrant advocacy group, Cosecha (the Spanish word for harvest), has been planning a day without immigrants on May 1. Maria Fernanda Cabello, a Cosecha organizer, said it was not behind Thursday’s campaign, but viewed it as something of a dry run, and was working with some local groups that were promoting it.

“We don’t know where this started, and as far as we know, there isn’t anyone putting it all together,” Ms. Cabello said. “We started seeing messages about it in different cities a few weeks ago, and it’s really picked up in the last couple of days.”

Adding to the uncertainty, a variety of fliers and Facebook pages were used online to promote the campaign, some announcing demonstrations or urging people to patronize immigrant-owned businesses, while others did not.

Owners of some smaller businesses said that they supported the idea but that the campaign was too hastily organized to justify closing. Josh Phillips, a co-owner of Espita Mezcaleria in Washington, said that rather than close, he wanted to donate a portion of his restaurant’s proceeds on Thursday to the organizers of the campaign. But, he said, “we still don’t know who’s organizing it.”

Each dinner receipt, Mr. Phillips said, will be inscribed with the phrase, “This meal was made possible by immigrants.”

Ivan Iricanin, who owns Ambar, a Balkan restaurant with locations in Washington and Arlington, Va., said that after meeting with his staff on Monday, he decided to keep the restaurants open. But, he said, about seven of his 100 employees chose not to work on Thursday.

“It’s kind of a lot of questions that were unanswered,” Mr. Iricanin, 39, said, “and that’s why I think that some people are all for it and some are in between.”

José Andrés, a Spanish-born chef who has tangled publicly with President Trump, will close his Washington restaurant Oyamel on Thursday as part of a national campaign to show support for immigrants. Credit Olivier Douliery/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Businesses across U.S. close for 'Day Without Immigrants'

Businesses in cities across the country prepared to close Thursday as immigrants boycott their jobs, classes and shopping.

Immigrants in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Austin, Texas, and other major U.S. cities plan to stay home Thursday as part of a strike called "A Day Without Immigrants."

Coming on the heels of roundups of undocumented immigrants nationwide, organizers urge legal residents as well as undocumented ones to participate in the boycott in response to President Trump's crackdown on immigration, which includes plans to build a border wall and a temporary immigration ban on nationals from certain Muslim-majority nations.

"From doctors to dishwashers, immigrants are integral to daily life in the U.S.," tweeted Janet Murguia, president and CEO of National Council of La Raza, as she praised Spanish-American Chef Jose Andrés' decision to close his Washington, D.C., restaurants Thursday.

The celebrity chef said he decided to close after a few hundred of his employees told him they weren’t coming to work Thursday. They asked for his support and got it.

“We are all one," he said. "We should not be fighting among each other, we should all be working together to keep moving the country forward."

Andrés faces a lawsuit against Trump after pulling out of a restaurant deal at Trump's new Washington, D.C., hotel over offensive comments Trump made about Mexican immigrants.

The Trump administration, less than a month in, has implemented policies that advocates call anti-immigrant. The first series of changes included executive actions to build the U.S.-Mexico wall, boost patrol agents to curb illegal immigration and strip federal funding from sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration agents.

Days later, Trump signed a sweeping order that temporarily banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and indefinitely barred Syrians from the country, though an appeals court order temporarily blocked the order.  That order has been temporarily suspended while an appeals court weighs whether it will lift the ban.

It is unclear at this time how many immigrants in the United States will join the boycott, but restaurants across the Northeast closed their stories in solidarity with the movement. Health-food chain Sweet Green announced it would close its 18 stores in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area.

“Our diversity is what makes this family great, and we respect our team members’ right to exercise their voice in our democracy," Sweet Green said in a statement. "We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and hope you understand our commitment to our people.”

Busboys & Poets and more than a dozen other restaurants in the nation's capital announced closings. Other restaurants in New York, Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minn., and Austin, Texas, have announced closings.

In New Mexico, the state with the largest percentage of Latino residents in the U.S., school officials worry that hundreds of students may stay home.

“We respectfully ask all parents to acknowledge that students need to be in class every day to benefit from the education they are guaranteed and to avoid falling behind in school and life,” Albuquerque Public Schools principals wrote in a letter to parents.

Students who take part in the protest will receive an unexcused absence, Albuquerque school officials said.

In Phoenix, acclaimed chef Silvana Salcido Esparza said she will close three of her Phoenix restaurants for the day: Barrio Cafe, Barrio Urbano and Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva.

"You know what, my restaurants don’t function without immigrants. That starts in the field, people who pick our food, the processing plants, the slaughterhouse, I could go on," she said Wednesday, hours after she was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef — Southwest for the fifth time.


DC preps for 'Day Without Immigrants,' but Hill takes little notice

Washington, DC, restaurants and schools are preparing for a "Day Without Immigrants" protest Thursday, but so far, policymakers who live in the nation's capital haven't taken much notice.

Immigrants and supporters are planning to strike Thursday in a protest loosely organized by social media and word of mouth. The goal is to demonstrate the importance of immigrants to society, as the Trump administration continues to pursue hard-line enforcement policies that advocates fear will disrupt communities and the economy.
Restaurants in the DC area were planning to operate with short staff, offer menus in solidarity with striking immigrants and in some cases, close altogether.

Celebrity chef José Andrés, who is locked in a lawsuit with President Donald Trump for pulling his restaurant from the Trump hotel project in Washington over Trump's anti-undocumented immigrant rhetoric, announced he would close most of his restaurants Thursday as part of the protest.

The Trump International Hotel did not respond to a request for comment on its plans for Thursday.

Schools were preparing as well. A bilingual charter school in Northwest DC planned to close, and DC public schools were preparing for possible walkouts.

Similar actions have taken place in other cities. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was the site of a similar protest this week, and bodegas in New York closed earlier this month in protest of Trump's travel ban executive order.
Thursday's planned protest is the first such event in the nation's capital, but so far it has failed to catch the eye of the lawmakers who create the policies that the protests will target.

Outreach to many of the offices on Capitol Hill that are the most involved in immigration policy turned up little awareness of the planned protest, aside from a few word-of-mouth exchanges.

The office of the Architect of the Capitol, which oversees and contracts with thousands of Capitol support staff, did not respond to an inquiry about whether any preparations were underway or absences were anticipated.

Restaurants to close
The impact may be felt, however, if policymakers try to eat at hot spots around town on Thursday.

Andrés announced his restaurants Jaleo, Zaytinya and Oyamel Cocina Mexicana would be closed, while China Chilcano would remain open for company staff to work.

"In support of our people & #ADayWithoutImmigrants Thurs 2/16 we will not open @jaleo DC CC MD, @zaytinya or @oyameldc #ImmigrantsFeedAmerica," he tweeted.

Sweetgreen, a chain of salad restaurants, said it would close all of its DC locations in solidarity with its team members and Day Without Immigrants. In response to tweets, the chain said workers can use paid "impact hours" and still receive pay for Thursday.

Andy Shallal, the founder of Busboys and Poets, a small local chain of bookstores and cafes, said his business would be closed "in solidarity w/ my brothers & sisters."

Bar Pilar said it was planning to open with a skeleton crew, and serve Latin American-inspired dishes in solidarity with staff and immigrants. A spokeswoman said some staff have pledged their tips to coworkers participating in the protest, and some proceeds from cocktail sales will be donated to the American Immigration Council.

John Andrade's restaurants, including Meridian Pint, Smoke and Barrel, Brookland Pint and Rosario, will be open, but "bring your own food" with the kitchens closed, Andrade said in a statement on Facebook.

"As a Latino business owner, I stand in solidarity with all of my immigrant staff," he said.

Black Restaurant Group, Shouk and Taylor Gourmet all told CNN they would see how short-staffed they are on Thursday, but said they support their worker's decisions to protest if they so choose.

Clyde's Restaurant Group, which operates the popular White House-adjacent institution Old Ebbitt Grill, said its properties would remain open but could be affected by the demonstration.

"It is going to be a difficult day for us," the company's president, Tom Meyer, said. "Immigrants are an integral part of our team; there is no doubt we will struggle. We have always loved, supported and cared for our employees, and tomorrow will be no different. We support their decision to stay home."

DC fitness chain VIDA sent an email saying it would also be affected.

"Immigrant workers make up an indispensable part of our VIDA community and the backbone of many of our daily operations," the email said. "We support our employees participation in the nationwide Day Without Immigrants movement tomorrow and as a result we have modified our operations wherever necessary."

Schools prepare

Schools were also preparing. Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School in Northwest DC will be closed Thursday for students and teachers participating in the protest, the school confirmed.
DC Public Schools Chief John Davis emailed principals expressing respect for protests but insisting teachers and students were expected to be in class.

"DCPS schools are and will continue to be safe places for all students and all people in our communities, regardless of immigration status, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression," Davis wrote. "While some may plan to attend this week's walkout about immigration, all students and staff are expected to be in school throughout the day so that teaching and learning can continue. We highly value and are committed to fostering a learning environment where staff and students feel safe and secure and we respect the right to self-expression and peaceful protest."

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