How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Immigration, deportations on Occupy L.A.'s list of grievances

Photo by DB's Travels/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A sign at the Occupy Los Angeles camp, October 2011

As Occupy L.A. protesters prepared last week to fight the city's planned eviction of their camp outside City Hall - still on hold as they take the eviction fight to court - a list of demands drafted by the protesters solidified their sympathy for the immigrant rights movement.

A few days ago, the Los Angeles protesters posted a list of "grievances not addressed" that ranged from a moratorium on foreclosures to seeking a better public transit system to student debt relief, and this request:

Los Angeles to be declared a sanctuary city for the undocumented, deportations to be discontinued and cooperation with immigration authorities be ended – including the turning in of arrestees’ names to immigration authorities.

It's a tall order in Los Angeles County, which has long had a partnership with the federal government that allows for jail inmates to be turned over to immigration officials. The city is already criticized by immigration restriction advocates as being a so-called "sanctuary city" for its Special Order 40, which bars Los Angeles police from inquiring about immigration status.

Still, it's indicative of Los Angeles' Occupy movement. Since the beginning, Occupy protests in other cities (including in New York, where Occupy Wall Street got the ball rolling) have been accused of being too white, with little black or Latino participation despite these groups having been hit hardest by the economic crisis that spurred the protests in the first place.

This hasn't been the case so much in California, though, where Latinos have been involved in the protests since the start, among them immigrant rights activists and supporters. While the protesters' grievances continue to revolve around the role of banks and other corporate entities in the economic crisis, immigration has made its way onto the list. Earlier this month, Occupy protesters in Oakland embarked on a campaign to free Francisco "Pancho" Ramos-Stierle, a former graduate student who was placed on a deportation hold after his arrest during a rally. And on Saturday, about 300 Occupy San Francisco protesters held an immigrant rights march.

Other groups have held Occupy-related immigration protests as well, including an Occupy ICE group in San Diego organized by the local janitors' union and an Occupy Birmingham protest today in Alabama, with protesters picketing an immigrant detention center.

Where it goes from there isn't clear. The Occupy movement has been criticized for taking on too many grievances, though supporters argue that this doesn't necessarily dilute its goals. The complete Los Angeles list of unaddressed grievances (listed under the bilingual heading "Para Todos Todo, Para Nosotros Nada: For Everyone, Everything, For Us, Nothing") can be read here.

Next up: Whether the Occupy L.A. campers are evicted or not, there is an Occupy Ports protest planned for Dec. 12, timed to coincide with a planned economic boycott by immigrant advocates. Dec. 12 also happens to be the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

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