June is National Immigrant Heritage Month, a time to show appreciation and celebrate immigrant communities in the United States and across the globe. 

For many immigrant justice advocates and allies, this is also a time to recognize the social and economic contributions of immigrants and, most importantly, to continue to demand for immigration reform and a path to citizenship for the approximately 45 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. 

With this in mind, on June 1 a group of protesters and community organizers gathered in downtown Los Angeles in historic Placita Olvera. Approximately, 300 attendees participated in the national boycott dubbed “Un Día Sin Inmigrantes,” or “A Day Without Immigrants,” organized this year specifically to denounce SB-1718. 

Florida’s SB-1718 is expected to go into effect on July 1st. The bill was signed by the state’s governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who is calling the bill the “strongest anti-illegal bill in the nation,” as it would revoke employer licenses for employing undocumented immigrants and set aside $12 million to relocate undocumented immigrants from Florida, as stated in a DeSantis announcement

The Florida law will also prohibit local governments from issuing identification cards (ID) to undocumented people, invalidate ID cards issued to immigrants in other states, and require hospitals to collect and submit data on the costs of providing healthcare to undocumented people. 

“Biden’s border crisis is a catastrophe,” DeSantis said after signing the bill. “While Washington abdicated its responsibility to secure our border, Florida is once again stepping up. Today, I signed legislation to combat illegal immigration and to deter illegal immigrants from coming to Florida.”

Before coming to the streets of Los Angeles, the protest and rally were organized to send a message to Florida’s governor and sparked momentum in social media.  

On May 1, a month before the rally and protest, California resident Samuel Ruiz posted a TikTok calling for people to boycott and strike, urging immigrants to not show up to work as a way showcase a day without immigrants. “I motivate you to spread the word. This Jun 1, 2023 we will be doing a labor strike and if you can support us you will make the difference,” Ruiz said in the video. The video has more than 82,000 views, and many viewers showed support almost immediately. 

One of those supporters was ShiVen VauBi, who after seeing Ruiz’s video wanted to help organize the rally and protest. “I’m here because we need an immigration reform. I’m a six-generation Mexican American, and I’m Indigenous to this land. My grandmother raised me to know who I am and where I come from,” VauBi said. 

DeSantis´ protest
Community organizations like CHIRLA attended the day long strike at Downtown LA.

VauBi said the biggest reason that inspired her to be at the rally was her son. She and her son flew out from Arkansas for the rally. “I can’t be all over TikTok, amplifying my voice, but sitting back at home, making breakfast for my son, and expecting my people to fight. I need to fight with them.”  

Ruiz and VauBi met on TikTok. “I saw his [immigration] video, and he saw one of mine, and then we started messaging each other. We got on the phone within an hour, and we started collaborating,” she said. “After DeSantis signed the anti-immigration law, it was probably 8 or 9 hours later when Ruiz and I were on a call, planning. We knew we needed to do something– stand up for our people.”   

The grassroots organizers were also joined and supported by social and human rights organizations like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, also known as CHIRLA, and MOBILIZE 4 IMMIGRANTS, also known as the  Latino Content Creators For Immigrant Justice Coalition. “We are joining the ranks of Ruiz and everyone across the nation who cares about immigrant justice. June 1, 2023, there will be a nationwide strike. That means, no work, no school, no business, nothing except gathering in your town with others who are observing this strike. We invite you to join us and take the pledge to strike on June 1st in honor of immigrant justice,” the organization wrote in a statement

DeSantis´ protest
Ruiz welcomes attendees to the rally on June 1.

At the beginning of the rally, Ruiz welcomed all the attendees and urged anyone else watching the live streams of the many people that were recording to attend and join the march. “It’s not too late to show your support and join us in this fight,” he said.

Ruiz said people have been urging him to organize the march sooner, but he wanted to wait and get enough support and momentum, and most importantly, be in solidarity with the many rallies also happening on the first of the month. “This is very simple; it’s about respect, about human rights. Our people have been attacked and made to seem as if we were the problem of this country, when we know that is not right; it’s the contrary,” Ruiz told CALÒ NEWS. “This all started because we wanted to support the anti-immigration laws in Florida, but it is not just about Florida; those laws will affect all immigrants.”

Angelenos from all over the city gathered and walked down from Olvera Street all the way to DTLA. The attendees chanted things like, “¡Si Se Puede!” “What do we want? Citizenship! When do we want it? Now!”  and “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido! (The people united, will never be defeated).” 

Some well-known Aneglenos also stepped out to show solidarity with the immigrant community. Mario “Scar” Ponce attended the rally and showed up on his low-ride blue bike. Ponce is known for “Honey Boy” (2019), “Hollow Point” (2019) and “The Dawnseeker” (2018). He is from Los Angeles and lives very close to Placita Olvera, he told CALÒ NEWS. 

“I’m here because I wanted to show support. They notified me about this event, and this is what it is all about: power in numbers.” 

Although the actor spend a lot of time on movie sets, he said advocating for the immigrant community is also very important to him. “This is about making the time, deciding to be on the right side of history, and making our voices heard,’” he said. 

Throughout the rally, Ponce recorded some of the speakers and took pictures of the colorful signs supporting immigrants. Ponce knows the impact of social media worldwide. “With the power of social media, you can show people and say, “Look, you could have been here,” he exclaimed.

Ponce is aware of the many times the voices of people of color go unheard but knows that social media platforms are a form of advocacy and organizing for the immigrant community, especially when you have a large social media following. “I’m glad that I can be here and show a little bit of this to my people. This is important, and we need to bring attention to it,” Ponce said. 

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Brenda Fernanda Verano is a journalist born in Mexico and raised in South Central, LA. Verano is a two-time award winner in the California College Media Association Awards. At CALÓ News, she covers...