Denver Day without Immigrants protest results in half-empty classrooms, closed restaurants

It’s a little hard to pin down numbers of people who stayed home. But teachers reported half-empty classrooms and some job sites were noticeably empty.

Osteria Marco in Larimer Square, closed on the "day without immigrants," Feb. 16, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)day without immigrants; immigration; deportation; kevinjbeaty; denver; restaurant; food; larimer square; denverite; colorado; copolitics;

Denver’s foreign-born residents made their absence felt around the city today for the Day without Immigrants protest against President Donald Trump’s proposed policies and stepped up immigration enforcement around the country.

The protest called for all immigrants, regardless of legal status, to stay home from work and school, not open their businesses and not spend any money. It’s a little hard to pin down numbers of people who stayed home, harder even than counting crowd numbers at a rally, and the anecdotal evidence is that the protest here wasn’t quite as large as in some other cities. But teachers reported half-empty classrooms and some job sites were noticeably empty.

Green Russell and Russell's Smokehouse in Larimer Square closed on the "day without immigrants," Feb. 16, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) day without immigrants; immigration; deportation; kevinjbeaty; denver; restaurant; food; larimer square; denverite; colorado; copolitics;
Green Russell and Russell’s Smokehouse in Larimer Square closed on the “day without immigrants,” Feb. 16, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Public Schools estimated that overall attendance was down about 5 percent compared to yesterday, but some schools saw between 30 and 50 percent of their students stay home. Those are preliminary estimates, officials said, because some teachers don’t enter their attendance until the end of the day. These absences are treated as unexcused unless the parent contacts the school with a valid reason.

Eater reported that a number of Denver restaurants closed either in solidarity or because they don’t have enough employees to open or because the owners themselves are immigrants.

The Colorado Restaurant Association warned its members not to retaliate against or punish workers who participate in the Day without Immigrants protest, in part because they may be protected by the law.

“First and foremost, you need to recognize that the National Labor Relations Act [NLRA] protects all workers who engage in lawful concerted activity for the purposes of mutual aid and protection,” the association said in an email. “This applies to unionized and non-unionized workforces alike. Any worker who takes or seeks to initiate an action among a group of employees about work-related issues, or brings complaints about the workplace to management, is covered under the statute. Therefore, if you take adverse action against these workers for their concerted, protected activity, you could face an unfair labor practice charge. You should not discipline workers for engaging in this concerted, protected activity. In fact, the unions and worker advocates may actually be eager for you to slip up and drop the disciplinary hammer on protestors, using your actions as an example to make workers into martyrs for their cause.”

Osteria Marco in Larimer Square, closed on the "day without immigrants," Feb. 16, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) day without immigrants; immigration; deportation; kevinjbeaty; denver; restaurant; food; larimer square; denverite; colorado; copolitics;
Osteria Marco in Larimer Square, closed on the “day without immigrants,” Feb. 16, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

There’s also a sense of mutual interest.

“The Colorado Restaurant Association has long been in support of responsible immigration reform,” restaurant association executive director Sonia Riggs wrote. “We believe that immigrants are an important part of our workforce, and we support an immigration policy that includes a pathway to citizenship.”

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.