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'Day Without Immigrants' impacts local businesses, schools

Groups in Shafter and Arvin took part in the nationwide "A Day Without Immigrants" protests.

On Thursday, immigrants and supporters stayed home from school and work to show how critical they are to the U.S. economy. The grassroots movement comes in response to President Donald Trump, whose administration has pledged to increase the deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally.

Trump campaigned on building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and blamed high unemployment on immigration. As president, he's called for a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming into the U.S.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Thursday morning, hundreds of people in the city of Arvin marched from St. Thomas Catholic Church on East Bear Mountain Boulevard to Arvin's City Hall. They held signs that read "we have a dream" and "stop ICE sweeps" while chanting "si se puede," the Spanish slogan used during the United Farm Workers strike.

Organizers in Arvin said they want their community to become a sanctuary city. They rallied outside of City Hall, hoping their loud protests would echo through the ears of their Council members. Organizers said they want their city officials to put a policy in place to protect undocumented immigrants from deportations.


Josth Stenner, who is a community advocate for Faith in the Valley Kern, lead the marchers in their protest.

"We just want to talk to them and share our fears and share what the community is feeling," said Stenner.

But the protesters did not only march down the street, they also committed to participate in an economic strike. Many immigrants and business owners refused to work in an act of solidarity.

In Arvin, more than dozen locally owned business shut down. Some tapped hand written signs explaining why they were closed.

"'A Day Without Immigrants' is trying to show the nation how important is the community, the immigrant community in this economy," said the priest of the St. Thomas Church in Arvin.

Community organizers in Arvin said they will be holding another rally in the coming weeks.

SCHOOL IMPACT

Classrooms around Kern County felt the impact of "A Day Without Immigrants."

Many students joined the movement by not going to school.

Both the Kern County High School District and the Bakersfield City School District said they saw a higher absentee rate than usual.

Kern High School District

  • Total students: about 38,000
  • Total students absent on Feb. 16: about 5,440
  • Total students absent on Feb. 15: about 1,328
  • About 4,112 more students absent on "A Day Without Immigrants"


Bakersfield City School District

  • Total students: about 30,749
  • Total students absent on Feb. 16: 6,783
  • Total students absent on Feb. 15: 1,639
  • 5,144 more students absent on a "A Day Without Immigrants"

Here is the breakdown of the Bakersfield City School District's overall demographic data:

  • 79 percent Latino
  • 10 percent white
  • 8 percent African American
  • 3 percent other

"We usually average about 95 percent attendance everyday across our district," Tim Fulenwider, Bakersfield City School District's spokesperson, said. "Today, we are averaging about 78 percent average across the district. We expect things to go back to 95 percent."

Not all absences were directly related to the movement. The Bakersfield City School District said the absences affect the students more than anything.

"We're disappointed that students aren't in school and we recognize the importance of education for all kids," Fulenwider said. "All kids in our city have a right to free education, regardless of their status, and we're just disappointed that kids aren't in school today. They're missing a day of learning."


LOCAL REPUBLICANS RESPOND TO #ADAYWITHOUTIMMIGRANTS

Kern County Republican officials responded to Thursday’s "A Day Without Immigrants" movement.

Javier Reyes with Kern County Young Republicans said Trump wants to target criminals, not take apart families.

“It’s a false fear,” said Reyes. “A lot of the left activists are trying to scare people into thinking Donald Trump wants to deport families. Not at all.”


Reyes said Democrats looking to draw attention to immigration are off target.

“When people come here legally, they totally get to experience the American Dream,” said Reyes. "A lot of our members have family that are immigrants, and that’s why we support Donald Trump’s policy of legal immigration to the United States.”

Reyes suggested Congress and the president should work to come up with an immigration policy that takes care of immigrants that are in the country legally.

“Government should not take a long time to process people that are here legally,” said Reyes. "After that, then we can begin to find a compromise for those that are undocumented.”

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Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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