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A Day Without Immigrants calls attention to immigration issues in Bladen County, across the nation

All around Bladen County and across North Carolina and the United States, businesses, industries, restaurants, and retail outlets are gearing up for “A Day Without Immigrants” today (Thursday, February 16).  The event has largely been publicized through social media and word of mouth.

It is unclear exactly how many immigrants and their supporters will take part in Thursday’s event in Bladen County and across the United States.  “A Day Without Immigrants” is touted as a movement that is attempting to call attention to what some refer to as President Donald Trump’s unfair treatment of illegal immigrants and his executive order blocking individuals from 7 Muslim countries from entering the United States.

“We totally understand (their feelings),” said Pedro Lira, who was in the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1208 office in Tar Heel on Thursday. He explained the UFCW has a contract with Smithfield and the labor union and the company must honor the contract.

Lira said workers were informed taking part in the “Day Without Immigrants” is optional; however, the workers must also understand there are consequences for doing so. He said that a worker can earn up to seven points on their personnel record, but once they have accumulated seven or more points in their personnel record, they could lose their job. He said workers have to decide for themselves if the points they would accumulate for not attending work is a risk they want to take.

“We support them 100 percent but we have a contract with the company. We have to honor that contract. If you have points to use, you can use them. Those that don’t have points to lose, have to decide (if they still want to take part),” said Lira.

Lira, who is a naturalized citizen, is originally from Mexico. He said, “This nation is built by immigrants.”

Lira said he went through the naturalization classes and had to pass a citizenship test in order to become a naturalized citizen. He encouraged all immigrants to do the same. Lira said if immigrants are coming to stay in the United States permanently, “You have to pay the price.” He said it is important for immigrants who come to live in the United States learn the language. It is important for them to learn about the culture and to learn how things are done properly, said Lira.

A message left for Kathleen Kirkham, spokesperson for Smithfield in Tar Heel, seeking to learn what type of impact the event had on operations there was not returned as of press time.

One industry in Bladen County that depends heavily on immigrant labor, is agriculture. Alfred Wright, an employee of Carter Farms in White Lake, said all of their laborers reported to work on Thursday.

“In all honesty, it did not impact us today,” said Wright on Thursday morning.

He said during the winter months, there have been days when it was too cold for workers to be in the fields and other days when it was raining. Wright said they have lost several days of work due to weather. “All of ours showed up,” said Wright.

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