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“Day Without Immigrants” Shows How Vital They Are

Nearly 241 years ago, the United States was founded by immigrants. Those immigrants looked much different than the immigrants that come into our nation now — but the foundational makeup of our country remains the same. We are a nation of immigrants. On Thursday, the working immigrant population seeks to draw attention to their vast numbers: What is the "day without immigrants"? It's a general strike calling for all immigrants in the United States to stay home from work and school on Thursday. A "day without immigrants" is a campaign that has spread largely across social media and has received massive support from some well-known employers of immigrants, particularly within the food services industry.

The day without immigrants strike aims to call attention to the vast number of immigrants that make up the American workforce and how President Trump's U.S.-Mexican border wall and his temporary immigration order still hung up in the courts are just bad policy for the American economy. According to data compiled by nonpartisan independent think tank Migration Policy Institute, there are 42.2 million immigrants in the United States, representing a little over 13 percent of the U.S. population. If every immigrant worker stayed home on Thursday for a day without immigrants, America would lose 17 percent of its workforce.

A day without immigrants has received widespread support from prominent businesses, including Spanish-born chef José Andrés, who has closed his restaurants for the day across the Washington, D.C. area. All over the country, businesses are closed Thursday in recognition of or solidarity with the immigrant worker general strike.

Immigrant workers are more often than not doing the jobs that American workers don't want to or won't do. This isn't partisan conjecture: the data backs it up. A 2015 interactive analysis from The Pew Charitable Trusts revealed that immigrant workers disproportionately make up the workforce within a number of industries more than others, and also when compared to U.S.-born workers in those same industries. For example, there are more immigrant workers than U.S.-born workers in industries such as leisure and hospitality, construction, and agriculture and extraction.

The Migration Policy Institute also notes that, of immigrant workers, there are more Mexican immigrants workers compared to other foreign-born immigrant workers in the U.S. workforce. To put that into a broader perspective, nearly 70 percent of Mexican immigrants are in the U.S. workforce — and Mexican immigrants are greatly overrepresented in service occupations as well as natural resources, construction, and maintenance operations. But hey: Let's build that wall, am I right? Documented or otherwise, there's no denying that Mexican immigrants represent a wide swath of the American workforce. (And no, that does not support the lie that they are taking American jobs from Americans who want them.)

A day without immigrants is meant to be more than just a lunchtime inconvenience on Thursday: It's meant to send a message to Trump's administration — and all of America — just how vital immigrants are to the U.S. workforce. Without them, our economic output would plummet. Trump promised to put "America first" — but it seems as though he's forgotten the fact that America exists in the first place thanks to immigrants.