Salt Lake City, Utah - Activists gathered here, July 16, for an emergency action outside the National Governors’ Association Conference, protesting the Grand America Hotel’s attack on immigrants. Last year Utah legislators passed SB 251, which requires all businesses with more than 15 employees to use the E-verify system to track workers. However, the Utah state government refused to include any penalties for businesses that refuse to use E-verify, in part because the politicians did not want to hurt big corporations that exploit immigrant labor. The Grand America Hotel bosses set a July 6 deadline for all of the employees. The bosses require that all workers reapply and either show the necessary documentation or face immediate termination. However, the bosses extended this deadline one month, to Aug. 6 in order to ensure staffing at the Governors’ Conference.
United for Social Justice, an immigrant rights organization, learned of the situation and put out a call for an emergency action to protest Grand America’s unfair policies and the E-verify bill. A small crowd of people showed up, including members of United for Social Justice and the Revolutionary Students Union. Lead organizer Gregory Lucero explained, “We think it’s totally unfair that Grand America has used these immigrant workers for years and is suddenly threatening to fire some of them. This shows what hypocrites corporate America and the governors all are.” Protesters came with signs saying “Grand America unfair to immigrant workers,” “Boycott Grand America,” and “Drop E-verify.” Chants of “Grand America’s policies a lie, you must drop E-verify!” and “Shame on Grand America” could be heard blocks away.
Grand America’s bosses responded by calling the police to remove the protesters. The protesters stood their ground and the police told the Grand America bosses there was nothing they could do. Grand America turned on the sprinklers. Undeterred, protesters outlasted Grand America’s sprinkle shower.
The protesters vow to continue to fight Grand America and E-Verify, demanding legalization for all undocumented immigrants. Kristin Lambert, the vice president of Utah Valley University Revolutionary Students Union said, “Defending workers, especially those who are immigrants is a top priority. Grand America is attacking the right to receive a living wage and enforcing racist systems of verification. An attack on one worker is an attack on all of us.”