The time for business as usual is over.
On Tuesday, June 19, amid national uproar over his immigration policies, President Trump joined the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a big lobby purporting to represent small business, for a polite lunch and opportunity to tout his “zero tolerance” against people seeking asylum. The NFIB audience members applauded eagerly as Trump doubled down on his bid to hold immigrant families hostage to his divisive agenda.
But real Main Street small business owners are not clapping. We are appalled.
As small business owners, we’re proud to be part of an entrepreneurial community that includes members from all walks of life, of all races, immigrant and U.S.-born.
The NFIB made a choice to support this administration’s immoral policies. Real small business don’t have to -- and shouldn’t.
By cheering Trump on Tuesday, the NFIB has tainted the reputation of small business, one of the most highly regarded institutions in the country, and we feel compelled to respond. The NFIB does not represent us or speak for us.
We want to assure the public that Main Street businesses like ours care about our employees, our customers, our communities, and our democracy. Our business bottom line matters to us, but our moral bottom line is the cornerstone of our relationships as entrepreneurs.
We share the nation’s horror as we see what this Administration has done to tear families apart, and in the process tear our country apart, vilify people seeking our country’s protection, and sow racial division. Our country has turned a corner. We cannot stand by idly while this administration perpetrates such inhumane policies and intentionally abuses its power.
The executive order signed by President Trump the day after the NFIB luncheon only continues the abuse. It may not end family separation and will not reunite families, erase the damage already done, or prohibit more cruelties from being visited on the people seeking this country’s protection.
Locking immigrant families up in internment camps is still unjust. Prosecuting people for seeking asylum is still unjust.
Congress must abolish these cruel practices for this and all future administrations. We expect politicians to stop using children and youth as political currency. Stop holding them hostage to advance policies that limit family immigration, make asylum harder to obtain, or place more obstacles to citizenship. Stop holding families hostage to fund a wall, or force employers to be your immigration police. These demeaning policies are devoid of justice.
We offer a different vision from that offered by the NFIB. We believe in creating a Main Street economy that values all people as it sustains local economies.
That economy includes fair taxation to fund a healthy, educated workforce and thriving communities. It includes economic development for revitalizing local economies and advancing racial equity. It includes guaranteeing that each job is a quality job that boosts our economy.
And it also, crucially, includes supporting immigrant entrepreneurs -- an integral part of our country’s proud small business history -- and other immigrants.
We believe our country can stand for this vision. Main Street business owners, community leaders, and families are coming together to infuse our public life with a common-sense moral code: treat each other as we would be treated, and resist when those with power abuse it.
If you disagree with these policies and your business displays an NFIB decal, it’s time to remove it. If you have an active membership in NFIB, cancel it. If you fly an American flag from your storefront or care about the values the flag should symbolize, demand that Congress take action to put an end to this national embarrassment.
Kelly Conklin is the owner of Foley Waite LLC, a custom woodworking company in Kenilworth, New Jersey. Jim Houser is the owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon. Conklin and Houser serve on the Executive Committee of the Main Street Alliance small business network.