Lauren Malphrus pulled up to the Little Steps Daycare and Preschool in Bluffton around 7:30 a.m. Thursday with her 3-year-old son, Asa, and saw that the windows were darkened.
Confused, she turned back to her car, and soon found that the daycare had closed for the day in support of “A Day Without Immigrants,” a national strike in which immigrants are boycotting work, school and businesses in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration stance and in an effort to show their economic influence in the community.
“Why didn’t they tell me?” she asked loudly. “Why didn’t they call the parents? I’ve got to go to work!”
Malphrus, who was visibly upset, instructed Asa to get in the car and called Asa’s father, hoping he could take their son so she could go to work at J&R Ice Cream Co.
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“So it’s closed,” she told him. “And I had no clue until I got here this morning. ... This is so ridiculous. So ridiculous.”
Little Steps, a bilingual daycare, made the closing announcement on its Facebook page Wednesday night as a part of “A Day Without Immigrants” campaign.
“As an educational institution, I do not mix politics nor any beliefs within the daycare’s decisions, but all our staff members are immigrants. I cannot take away their right of protesting for what they believe is not fair,” the announcement said.
“Even though everyone working in Little Steps is legal in this country, we believe it’s imperative to join this movement and protest since there are family relatives and friends being affected by all the raids and it saddened us to see the way ... things are being taken care of.”
The announcement immediately sparked an outcry among parents who depend on Little Steps for childcare, with most upset about the announcement’s timing. Several parents demanded a refund for the day. A few threatened to go to court.
“This is absurd! Not even a full day notice?!? I will be expecting you to write a check for my babysitter considering I’ve already paid you for tomorrow. This is not an excusable reason to close a daycare,” one parent wrote.
“Please keep politics out of business. If you choose to support a cause and take a day off then by all means do it, but find a substitute teacher or someone to fill in for you. At least give us the respect of a notice,” another parent said. “You just let a hundred families down.”
Others applauded the business for standing up for the immigrant community.
“It takes guts to take a stand like that,” one person wrote.
“The whole point of the boycott is to show people how much they depend on immigrants everyday. Sure seems to be working,” another person wrote on the Facebook thread.
The national strike, which began as a call to action on social media and has no apparent central organizer, urges immigrants of all backgrounds to close their businesses, stay home from work, spend no money and keep their children out of school for the day in an effort to show the economic role they play in the nation.
Information about the boycott was widely circulated on local Facebook pages Wednesday and included a message to Trump: “To the president: Without us and our contribution this country is paralyzed.”
However, it was not known how many local businesses planned to close, how many people planned to stay home from work or how many Beaufort County children might be kept out of school. Jim Foster, spokesman for the Beaufort County School District, said he expects to know by 3 p.m. today whether attendance was affected by the strike.
The strike comes one week after Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested approximately 190 people accused of being in the United States unlawfully in a series of arrests over the last week across South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, according to a release by ICE officials.
Eleven of the 19 arrests across South Carolina were made in Beaufort County.
While Malphrus tried to collect her thoughts, her son cried from the back of the car, angry to have been put back in his car seat. She was teary.
“This is not fair,” she said. “I understand what they’re trying to do, but they have to understand to.”