Occupy Movement Tackles Immigration on International Migrants Day

The Occupy Wall Street movement turned its attention to immigration on Sunday in honor of International Migrants Day.

In rallies in New York and Los Angeles, hundreds turned out to draw attention to immigrant working rights and immigration policies.

In New York, hundreds of demonstrators, under the banner #ImmigrantsOccupy/#D18, braved the bitter cold and marched from Foley Square in Lower Manhattan to Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

People sang, danced and did street theater during the march, which was more festive than confrontational.

"It was a good first step to be visual and have a lot of people come out and support us," said Mariano Muñoz, one of the organizers of the march. "If some of the people in the Occupy movement in the past hadn't talked about immigration, or focused on immigration, they definitely are now."

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Muñoz said the 99 percent, the movement's catchphrase, is very diverse. And immigrants are part of the economic struggle.

"That’s why we were out there in the very cold weather -- to have our issues on the front line of this movement," he said. "Now were are excited about our next step."

If some of the people in the Occupy movement in the past hadn't talked about immigration, or focused on immigration, they definitely are now.

— Mariano Muñoz, one of the organizers of the march

The rally was in honor of the newly formed Immigrant Worker Justice Working Group, which aims to highlight working immigrants who are part of the so-called 99 percent.

“We believe that all labor should be honored and that all workers, regardless of immigration status, deserve equal rights and dignity,” the group says in its mission statement. “We recognize globalized capital – in the form of financial institutions, multinational corporations, and neoliberal state economic policies – as the impetus for economic migration to the United States, and deplore the fact that banks and corporations, supported by the government, continue to profit from immigrant detention and deportation.”

In Los Angeles, about 600 people protested U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the banner Occupy ICE. Protesters marched several blocks in Downtown Los Angeles, started at the famed Olvera Street and ending at an LA federal building.

Both protests were peaceful.

The marches, which coincided with International Migrants Day, were carefully planned in an attempt to prevent the mass arrests that have occurred at other large Occupy rallies across the country.

Organizers, who realize that immigrants are fearful of arrests that could lead to deportation, redoubled their efforts to avoid potential confrontation with police.

The marches come days after a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal in Arizona blocking parts of the state’s tough immigration law.

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