Taos joins ‘A Day Without Immigrants’

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What do you do when half of your employees are immigrants and plan to join with the immigrant community from L.A. to D.C. in a general strike?

For Taylor Etchemendy, director of the Inspire early childhood center in Taos, it was just a matter of figuring out the logistics so she could support her teachers being a part of that movement.

What started as an idea on social media not too long ago turned into a national strike Feb. 16. Immigrants from major metropolitan cities to rural communities like Taos didn’t come into work for “A Day Without Immigrants.”

The general strike is a direct response to President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda that has shown to be as expansive and aggressive as promised on the campaign trail.

Immigrants make up almost half of the 23 full-time teachers at Inspire, which serves about 85 families a week and about 50 families each day, said Etchemendy.

“When my staff requested to have the day off, we said, ‘Absolutely, 100 percent,’” she told The Taos News.

In some cities, businesses — especially restaurants — totally closed up shop for the day. Because the news of the strike spread mostly within the immigrant community, Inspire didn’t have time to find a way to do that. But to make sure her immigrant teachers could participate in the strike, Inspire called in all the part-time teachers and subs to cover classrooms.

“We’re really a family and community that supports one another. It’s really important that they know that,” she said.

Etchemendy said that though it may not be obvious to everyone, immigrants make up a huge part of the Taos economy and community. “From the ski valley, construction, landscaping and in the public schools…I don’t know any business that doesn’t have someone from the immigrant population there,” she said.

Indeed, a planning document recently adopted by Taos County indicates that people of Mexican origin (as opposed to “legacy Hispanos”) make up roughly one-fifth of the residents in the county.

“This is their space. This school is their school,” Etchemendy said. “Maybe this is the beginning of a greater movement we can all participate in.”

For more on this story, see the Feb. 23 edition of The Taos News.

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