Last year on February 16th, some California teachers looked around to eerily empty classrooms. Chicago construction sites ceased their sawing and clanging. Washington D.C. restaurants stayed shuttered – some with lonely signs taped to their dark windows.
“We Are Immigrants”
“We are closed in solidarity with our hardworking immigrant employees”
On that day, untold thousands of our citizens and neighbors disappeared, knowing that they would be missed.
A Day Without Immigrants was not the first protest and boycott of it’s kind, meant to demonstrate the foundational role immigrants play in the U.S. economically and otherwise. However, its message was amplified by the political friction at the time and by social media attention to create a day which poignantly reminded us of the diversity which defines our country, and where we would be without the hands and backs of immigrants in our workforce.
Just how many hands? Roughly 26,000,000 foreign-born people (without regard to legal status or country of birth) wake up for work every day in the U.S. Of the estimated 2,500,000 million humans laboring on our nation’s farms, over 70% were born abroad: the overwhelming majority from Mexico.
That’s about 1,775,000 immigrants planting, weeding, harvesting, cleaning, and packing the food in your grocery store. If those 3,550,000 hands disappeared one day, what would the rest of us do?
Just as A Day Without Immigrants made a ringing impact by giving a taste of how much this country would lose without immigrants, National Farmworker Awareness Week (NFAW) strives annually to draw all eyes to the mostly-immigrant farmworkers who very literally put the food on our tables. This week, as AFOP Health & Safety collects long-sleeve shirts in massive donation drive to farmworkers (the National Long-Sleeve Shirt Drive), events are kicking off around the country celebrating the contributions of farmworkers to society, and continuing the drive towards solutions addressing the injustices that plague most agricultural workers.
Today’s NFAW theme – ‘One More Person’ – resonates through the message of farmworker José Silva Orocco:
“I’m one more person who comes to this country looking for a better life for myself and my family. During the months I’ve been with this company I’ve worked with different plants and vegetables… I miss Oaxaca [Mexico], my wife and my son. But what makes me happy is that they are doing better.”
Una persona mas. One more person willing to work hard, but unable to find fair work in his or her own home. One more person who had to make the heavy sacrifice to kiss a spouse and son goodbye for far-off soil. One more person out of millions, who’s hands and back we’ve built our world upon.
March 25-31: AFOP’s National Long-Sleeve Shirt Drive – nationwide
March 25: Student Action With Farmworkers (SAF)’s Pilgrimage for Justice – North Carolina
March 24-31: University of Idaho’s Free Speech Wall Display – Idaho
March 25: Worker’s Panel Discussion – North Carolina
March 27: University of Idaho’s ‘Dolores’ Screening – Idaho
March 28: North Carolina State’s ‘Harvest of Dignity’ Screening – North Carolina
March 29: Rollins College Bandana Project – Florida