About 100 local immigrants and supporters gathered in Beechview Thursday morning to protest the policies of President Donald Trump and show solidarity with their neighbors.
The rally was part of the national “Day Without Immigrants,” which aimed to demonstrate the importance of immigration to the country’s local businesses and economy.
Erick Martinez, 25, of Beechview, took part in the demonstration with his family. He said targeting businesses was an important part of getting people to notice immigrants’ contributions.
“A lot of people will not get their voice heard unless you hurt their pockets,” said Martinez. “You can give them facts, you can talk to them, you can have three-hour conversations. But if you hurt their pockets, they will really listen to you.”
Janice Vanderneck, a Sister of St. Joseph’s and the director of Casa San Jose, a resource center for the Latino community, said the demonstration was a way to fight hate and discrimination.
“The goal is to welcome immigrants in our midst,” said Vanderneck. “To show them that we know they will make a great contribution among us. And to do all that we can to fight against discrimination, or worst of all, the blame that seems to be mounting over them for the things our country fears. They are not responsible for the things our country fears.”
Fear was a theme at the protest, especially in light of the arrests of 680 people by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement last week. Some local activists have said there's been an uptick of arrests in Pittsburgh. Though, the Department of Homeland Security said ICE raids haven't increased and that the people arrested had criminal convictions.
President Trump's deportation executive order calls for the removal of someone in the country without permission who has committed any crime, regardless of its severity.
Vanderneck said the "collateral damage" of ICE practices is unfair and hurts families.
“Our community is experiencing immigration coming to the doors in the early morning hours and asking for an individual for whom they have a warrant,” said Vanderneck. “And if the folks come out the door, and even though they’re not on that warrant, and identify as not being a citizen, they’re being taken.”
President Trump has promised to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep out people trying to enter the country illegally. Martinez called the idea “a thing for brutes.” A Mexican-American, Martinez said he's lived in the U.S. since he was 7 years old, mostly in Pittsburgh.
While at the intersection of Fallowfield and Broadway, organizers led a chant of “Hola! Hello! Si se puede! (Yes we can!)." The chant was followed with a roll call of South American nations. Each one that echoed through the loudspeaker drew cheers. The loudest cheer came when they mentioned Pittsburgh.
Christina Castillo, 21, of Beechview, said that solidarity is critical for immigrants fighting for survival in this country.
“I think the immigrant community is starting to feel more empowered in this society,” said Castillo. "I think the power that they hold is much larger than they think.”
Castillo said while she’s afraid of this administration, she isn’t discouraged.
“I have more faith in the community than I have fear,” she said.