It all started on TikTok.
A young and energetic 23-year-old aspiring lawyer, with a Mexican mother and Uruguayan father, shared his idea of turning Valentine’s Day into “A Day Without Immigrants”, as a wake-up call to the country, but especially to President Joe Biden, whose Immigration reform to grant citizenship to 11 million undocumented immigrants remains a pending promise.
The call to not work, not go to school and not buy anything rose like a foam. In a few weeks, he accumulated almost 100,000 followers on Facebook, while thousands of businesses showed solidarity. Actor Mark Ruffalo, better known for his character as the Hulk in the Marvel films, joined the movement, as well as legislators Alexandria Ocasio-Cortés and Ilhan Omar, along with the only Mexican-born legislator, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
And so on Valentine’s Day, hundreds of Latinos dressed in their thickest scarves, gloves and hats to arrive at the doors of the White House from various parts of the country and demand that the president fulfill his promise. Nothing more nothing less. Other similar events were held in more than 20 cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Raleigh, among others.
“The conversation (about immigration reform) has not diminished… it has disappeared,” lamented the young promoter of the event, Carlos Eduardo Espina. “You have to use this as a base to continue growing, because you have to understand that change cannot be achieved in one day. “You have to be persistent, if the government does not respond tomorrow, then we will return in a month, and the next month.”
Of course, this is not the first time that we have witnessed migratory demonstrations, nor is it the first time that a day without immigrants has been called. A pessimist will say that despite public activism nothing has been achieved.
But the impressive response to the new call shows that the migration issue continues to be a sensitive nerve, not only for those affected, but also for a portion of the American public that shares the idea that this army of undocumented immigrants deserves a dignified and humanitarian solution.
What was the presidential response? President Biden was accompanied by his wife at the White House. On the way between the Marine One helicopter and the White House, reporters asked him for his reaction. His reply: “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
We all understand that the president of the United States heads a limited term, not only because of the strong opposition of the Republicans, but also because of the strong opposition of two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, in addition to other disagreements between progressive and moderate sectors in his own party.
But those millions of immigrants who are certified as essential workers when they are needed and ignored the next day deserve a response and a policy that matches their sacrifices and contributions. On the eve of the State of the Union Address, President Biden has the opportunity, and the moral obligation, to articulate a response that dignifies not only his word but also the immigrant community and the United States.