The Economics of People Power

It felt surreal to be in a large Town Hall filled with my DACAmented brothers and sisters, their families, allies, and those left out of immigration relief entirely, discussing our options in a worst-case scenario turned reality.


Jeff Sessions’ announcement of DACA’s repeal was infused with racist rhetoric that hinted at the coming campaign of terror against immigrants. This campaign has long been the vision of white supremacists, supported by militarized police power, in the form of ICE — and possibly, if people like Sheriff Hutchins have their way, by our local governments.


It became clear to me that night that all of us have a role to play, to fight back — or better yet, to win, to free our society from the hold of white supremacy.


At one rally on Tuesday, a friend imagined what would happen if workers walked out of the country’s largest companies. Immigrant communities are undeniably a vital source of labor, fueling our economy.  And if we stand with immigrants, ALL OF US must flex our power as consumers.  Economic strategies are another source of leverage we must put into action, because when the stakes are this high, all options for fighting back must be on the table.


While the owners of companies like Home Depot contributed to Trump’s campaign, street vendors, botánicas, and taquerias contribute to their families and to our local economy.  The private research firm Civics Economics documents that on average, 48% of each purchase done at a local independent business is recirculated locally, compared to 14% of purchases at chain stores. That means that half of every dollar you spend will get used in Santa Ana again and again.  It will go, for instance, to pay the wages of workers, who will pay their rent and make purchases for their family, ideally at another local store, to contribute that dollar all over again.


In Santa Ana, we have options for purchasing from hundreds of small businesses, some of which are well established in our shopping districts and some of which operate out of vehicles and temporary stands.


Yet not all options are the same. Centering the most vulnerable in our communitie requires that our dollar starts there too. “Localism” often promotes the trendier shops and out-of-reach organic goods stores that primarily service a wealthier demographic and not working families.  As consumers, we vote on whose right to remain we uphold every time we shop.  We have to be ready to make some switches from the convenience of Amazon, to the face to face interaction of purchasing at our neighborhood Latinx, immigrant owned and operated store or vendor.


If this administration is successful, let it be successful in uniting more of us than ever towards another world we’ve known is possible. Whether on the phones, at the polls, in the streets or with our wallets, let our cries for justice also be steps towards a more sustainable future.  One where humanity, community, respect for people and planet trump racism, bigotry and fear.

Ana Urzua

Ana Urzua

is a Mexican immigrant, resident of Santa Ana, and Sustainability Director of the Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities (SABHC). She began organizing as a high school student at El Centro Cultural de Mexico where she fused culture, music and activism. She worked with Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) and SACReD (Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development). Today, she supports cooperative businesses and El Mercadito Carrusel.