Luis Garduno skipped work Thursday so that he could support undocumented immigrants like himself and to dispel the rumor that people like him came to the U.S. to commit crimes: He came to work, he said in Spanish.
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Garduno was the only worker at his restaurant who went to a protest at Nomar Plaza on Thursday, so his restaurant didn’t have to close.
But he was joined by around 400 other people, mostly Latinos, who participated in “A Day Without Immigrants,” a national protest that shut down restaurants across the country, including several in Wichita. Wichita public schools also reported an unusually high number of absences, and many protesters vowed not to do any shopping.
Roberto Ticas, a citizen of El Salvador who has lived in the U.S. for 17 years, 12 in Wichita, showed up at the protest because he doesn’t want to go back to El Salvador. He was taking the day off from his job as a welder.
Several of the speakers called out President Donald Trump for employing immigrants, for coming from an immigrant family and for marrying immigrants, but then singling out Latino immigrants.
“I’m a citizen. I was born here, but right now I don’t feel like I’m from here,” Daina Gallegos said in Spanish. She moved to Wichita from El Paso, Texas, with her two children six months ago for her husband’s construction job. She said normally she would shop at Wal-Mart on a day like this but wouldn’t on Thursday.
“I have felt racism, my children have felt racism, because people don’t distinguish whether you are Latin or Mexican. I don’t think it’s just. It hurts my soul,” Gallegos said in Spanish. “They don’t respect whether you have papers or not. Your color is everything, the way that you speak is everything. I am mad at our president.”
Moses Torres, 19, who works at a gas station and goes to community college, said he wouldn’t be doing any shopping either Thursday to show the economic impact of taking immigrants out of the community. “Who works in the hotels? Who builds the buildings?” shouted Torres into a microphone, and then to the loudest applause, “Who prepares the most delicious food?”
Maria Quezada said the protest Thursday reminded her of when she marched with Cesar Chavez in the 1960s as a little girl when she lived with her parents, who were migrant farm workers. “He passed away but I know he is watching,” Quezada said. “We have to continue to do this because we’re the ones who continue to work in this country.”