By Jordan Stovka
Last Thursday, many restaurants in D.C. and its surrounding areas participated in a “Day Without Immigrants,” a nationwide strike protesting President Trump’s latest executive order banning Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.
Participants were encouraged to stay home from school and work to simulate what the country would be like without immigrants. The Washington Post reported immigrants make up 23 percent of the national workforce, leading to participating restaurants standing in solidarity by closing their stores or offering a limited menu.
Despite voluntary involvement in this nationwide protest, some restaurants remained virtually silent after the issue.
In a Facebook post published Wednesday, Franklins in Hyattsville wrote: “In solidarity with our immigrant employees, Franklins restaurant will be closed tomorrow, thursday, February 16th. The General Store will be open with limited hours, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.” adding the hashtag #ADayWithoutImmigrants.
The restaurant, however, declined further comment.
B Too, a restaurant located on 14th Street NW specializing in Belgian cuisine, closed their doors along with its parent restaurant Belga Café,. Founder Chef Bart Vandaele and his team refused to comment other than stating their position in the movement was out of respect to their employees.
“We did this for our employees, to give them also a voice,” executive chef and general manager Dieter Samijn wrote in an email.
Despite the surprising silence, other notable restaurant franchises opted to be more vocal in their stance on immigrant rights and equality.
The popular South African-Portuguese restaurant Nando’s PERi-PERi began their #EveryoneIsWelcome campaign leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, declaring the company’s commitment to being an “immigrant employing, gay loving, muslim respecting, racism opposing … ” restaurant where “#Everyone Is Welcome,” according to a press release.
The franchise’s D.C. area restaurants distributed 60,000 free posters featuring the hashtag on the front and the statement, “Even if you’ve never sat at one of our tables, you’re welcome to stand with us” on the back.
“This is a statement of who we are, and the values that our company and employees hold dear. It is meant to be as inclusive as possible,” CEO Burton Heiss wrote in a press release. “We hope that the campaign will catch on and start a conversation about understanding and respect.”
These posters are still displayed in the windows of the College Park location, and although the store remained open on Thursday, no Latinx employees worked, according to a member of Nando’s staff.
The Georgetown University-founded and California-based salad chain Sweetgreen closed 18 of their locations in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas, including the College Park restaurant.
Although the company, started by Georgetown graduates Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru, did not utilize a social media campaign or publicize their stance, restaurant manager Jose Harabia said he believes closing the stores was worth the monetary setback the franchise took that day.
“I feel like we did the right thing,” said Harabia, a College Park resident who has worked with the company for two years.
One of the more vocal progressives on this issue is Busboys and Poets owner and CEO Anas “Andy” Shallal, an Iraqi immigrant, who closed all six of his restaurants in the D.C. area, including the nearby Hyattsville location.
The Writer’s Bloc could not get in contact with Shallal, but he posted the following caption on the restaurant’s Instagram:
“As an immigrant, I stand in solidarity with my employees for A Day Without Immigrants. Sadly, we have to continue to remind this administration that like every other American, we work hard, we pay taxes, we have families and friends, and we are just as patriotic as every other American. I hope Busboys and Poets’ action to close for the day on Thursday will inspire others to stand up and show up. A day without immigrants is a sad day!”
According to the American Immigration Council, Maryland was home to 842,250 immigrants in 2013, more than the population of San Francisco. As of 2007 (the last year of which this data is available), the state’s 35,881 Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $11.3 billion and employed 71,408 people. Comparatively, the state’s 25,774 Latino-owned business had sales and receipts of $4.3 billion and employed 25,019 people.
Additionally, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the percentage of Hispanic or Latino population in Prince George’s county as of July 1, 2015, was 17.2 percent with the Asian population accounting for 4.7 percent in that same year. Prince George’s county ranked second in Maryland (just under Montgomery with 13.8 percent) when considering Hispanic population with 11.7 percent as of 2008 according to the Department of Legislative Services.
Featured Photo Credit: On Jan. 29, protestors marched on Washington in response to President Trump’s ban on immigrants. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Photographer)
Jordan Stovka is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.