Hundreds Rally In Kansas City With Nation On #DayWithoutImmigrants

Feb 16, 2017

If you closed your eyes you could have been at a Trump rally.

Boisterous chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” rang across east 12th Street as hundreds of protestors joined in a national day of opposition to an executive order restricting immigration and refugees by the Trump administration.

A crowd of mostly Hispanic men, women and children blanketed the steps of the Kansas City, Missouri City Hall, filling most of the plaza and the grassy side lawns.

Organizers of the nationwide "A Day Without Immigrants” pled with businesses to close, workers to strike and students to stay home from school.

According to a local Facebook page, some 100 Kansas City-area businesses and restaurants closed their doors today.

A group a dozen students from Johnson County Community College and Shawnee Mission schools said they came to support young people. Some in the group were citizens. Others were not, but had been here since they were toddlers.

They said they were among those called the "DREAMers," making reference to legislation that has been debated for 15 years but never passed. The proposed legislation would give conditional residency to young adults who came to America as children.

The rally felt more celebratory than scared, although I was told by a few participants that many immigrants stayed home, fearing the presence of immigration authorities.

American and Mexican flags snapped side-by-side in the wind.

Cars and trucks passing by honked and gave thumbs-up out their windows.

Police on horseback and in groups in street corners were hanging back, occasionally asking wanderers to stay off the street.

A spokesperson for the Kansas City police department said in an email Thursday afternoon there were three arrests, all relating to one incident involving a vehicle that stopped in the middle of the street and blocked traffic.

As one of a long list of speakers, Marisol Cervantes talked through a bull horn circled on all sides by a crowd 20 deep.

“Unity is a force. Hispanics together will never be divided,” she said. “I’m a single mother, my husband was deported in 2012 and I have three teenagers. I work every night 11p.m. 7a.m.”  

Marisol Cervantes' husband was deported and she works overnights to support her three teenagers.
Credit Laura Ziegler KCUR 89-3

Cervantes went on to say that the vast majority of immigrants in this country are concerned about their children.

"They were born here. They are Americans.."

The #DayWithoutImmigrants hashtag was trending early Thursday on social media.

But internet platforms also reflected the charged nature of the immigration debate.

Many commented, some in vitriolic and ugly terms, that immigration  cost more than it was worth to the U.S. economy because immigrants are filling jobs.

Similar rallies took place across the country from New York to California. 

Laura Ziegler is a Community Engagement reporter and producer. Reach her on twitter @laurazig or email lauraz@kcur.org.