By Joe Guzzardi
February 20, 2017
When a journalist has been on a beat for more than 30 years, as I have with immigration, everything comes full circle. Eventually, what’s happened in the past repeats itself.
So it was last week when “A Day Without Immigrants” demonstrations took place across the United States. Back in 2006, I wrote about another protest of the same name, and in 2004, I critically reviewed its movie version, “A Day Without a Mexican,” that envisioned California in crisis if illegal immigrants were to suddenly vanish from the labor force.
This year’s protests were the same as a decade ago. Smatterings of small, family-owned businesses closed. At some restaurants, employees stayed home in so-called solidarity with fellow immigrants that President Trump has allegedly targeted. And high school students, most of whom could ill-afford to miss class, played hooky anyway, often with their teachers’ misguided encouragement.
I’m as befuddled in 2017 as I was in 2006. Owning and operating a small business is tough; few can afford to lose a day’s receipts which are a grind to recapture. Most employees that work in the service industry are on the margin economically. Missing out on a day’s wages hurts them.
The students are young and impressionable, so I’ll cut them a little slack. But not their teachers, who should be warning their young charges about the labor market realities they’ll face if and when they graduate. More immigration, which the teens advocated for, will make their future job search tougher than it already will be. Even college grads are suffering. The Economic Policy Institute found that the average 2016 graduate, between the ages of 21 and 24, makes just under $18.53 per hour, or $38,500 per year for a full-time worker, practically unchanged from the $38,200 a graduate earned in 2000.
But more than anything else, I wonder what the dissenters realistically hope to achieve. When a coffee shop or mini-market closes, patrons aren’t inconvenienced. They go to the one across the street. A worker who loses a day’s pay doesn’t make a convert out of an American who wants immigration laws enforced. If that worker’s employer isn’t on board, then the employee risks being fired. Several dozen workers were summarily dismissed last week after they failed to show up to work, and in this weak employment market could have trouble finding a new job.
The media gives the protestors excellent print and television coverage. But the pro-immigrant advocacy groups already have the media in their back pocket. In fact, the more extensive “A Day Without Immigrants” coverage is, the less likely that enforcement advocates’ minds will change. Among the reasons is that use of “immigrants” is purposely misleading. An immigrant comes into the U.S. with a valid visa, and through a recognized port of entry; all others are illegal aliens. Knowingly and willfully entering the U.S., falsifying work documents and then crying foul when caught is, at best, disingenuous.
The long-term consequences of anti-Trump rallies are uncertain. But the short-term effect is crystal-clear: Trump isn’t budging. In May, when reporters asked candidate Trump if he might become more flexible on some of his views, he answered, “You think I’m going to change? I’m not changing.”
For the protestors, it’s time to come to grips with Trump and the reality of the American majority: it’s the dawn of the enforcement era.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. E-mail him at [email protected]. Find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.