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May 1 2017

This Immigrant is Showing Up to Work on May Day

by Patrice L. Onwuka

Today is May Day. This day that has come to stand for the rights of workers around the world has new meaning: galvanizing against President Trump.

News reports expect “tens of thousands” or “hundreds of thousands” of protestors and marchers to hit streets across the country from Cedar Falls, Iowa to New York City, New York. This is just two days after thousands of protestors descended on Washington, D.C. to protest President Trump’s approach to environmentalism and climate change.

This year the focus of the May Day rallies will be on immigration and current policies under consideration. Organizers are asking people to skip school, work, shopping, and banking to show the impact of immigrants as well as the cross-section of protesters according to The Nation:

… as the 6th Annual Immigrant Worker Justice Tour #May1Strike wrote in the description of their event: When workers, immigrants, women, Muslims, black and brown, indigenous, queer and trans communities face exploitation, criminalization, incarceration, deportation, violence and harassment, we strike.”  

USA Today reports the sentiment behind the strikes:

“There’s a real galvanization of all the groups this year,” said Fernanda Durand of CASA in Action, which will lead a march of about 10,000 people for immigrants' rights through downtown Washington. “Our presence in this country is being questioned by Donald Trump. We are tired of being demonized and scapegoated. We’ve had enough.”

Erick Sanchez, another Washington-based organizer, said he’s seen the melding of different groups in previous events this year, from the Women’s March on Washington to climate change awareness protests. Monday will be the culmination of gelling these disparate groups, he said.

“There’s really a sense that we’re in this together,” he said. “That an attack on one is an attack on all.”

Any reasonable onlooker is going to question the efforts today and ask the same questions that they asked about A Day Without Women and A Day Without Immigrants boycotts earlier this Spring: Will this actually help the people they claim to help?

I suspect today's strikes are just an example of paid organizers wearing the plight of opportunity-starved Americans as a cloak to cover up their rabidly partisan efforts.

When we look at the numbers, immigrants in the workforce didn't fare all that well under President Obama. Just look at some of these the numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • ·        In 2015, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born was 65.2 percent, down from 66.0 percent in the prior year.
  • ·        The participation rate of foreign-born women is 52.9 percent, lower than the rate of 57.4 percent for native-born women.
  • ·        Foreign-born mothers with children under 18 years old were less likely to be labor force participants than were native-born mothers--57.8 percent versus 73.4 percent.

As a foreign-born American citizen, I don't see the strikes today as inspiring because I hear nothing about actually creating opportunity for people who come to this country seeking a chance for economic mobility, freedom, and a better life for their kids.

My parents uprooted us not so that we could skip work or school to complain about what we don’t have. They instilled in us that hard work and making the best of opportunities as they come would allow us to achieve more than we could have achieved if we stayed in our homeland.

If today’s protesters want to do something productive, they should look at areas where opportunity is put out of reach for those who don’t have much education or income but want to work and provide for their families.

Let’s start with the state-level occupational licensing laws that make it expensive and time-consuming to pursue the government’s approval to work in jobs from tree trimming to manicurists. These are not just starter jobs but offer young people, working moms, and  immigrants real opportunity. Reforming these laws gives people in this country the chance to support their family, buy a home, open their own business, hire other workers, and achieve their American Dream.

I doubt the signs littering the streets and the rhetoric spewed at rallies will deal with actual solutions. They will likely just keep up the anti-Trump rhetoric that gets no one to work.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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