Activists highlight immigrants' contributions at annual Thanksgiving march

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A crowd of nearly 200 gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate immigrant contributions to the United States in honor of Thanksgiving. Supporters marched from the North Hollywood Day Labor Center to the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Sun Valley.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) hosted the annual event, distributing crosses to those who marched, each of which carried the name and age of an individual who died trying to cross into the the United States.

“The march is symbolic," said Cal State Northridge senior Pedro Trujillo. "It's a day before Thanksgiving, and we want to let the United States know that we are remembering this day as a day where immigrants were welcome to the United States by the Native Americans."

Trujillo is an organizer for the California Dream Network, a state-wide network that advocates on behalf of undocumented and recent immigrant youth. He said it's important that the demonstration falls on Thanksgiving eve.

"We want to remind Americans that we should be thinking about immigrants the same way, instead of putting anti-immigrant policies that are really cruel and unjust in the communities," he said.

Once they arrived at the church, demonstrators held Mass, followed by group discussions and a talent show. Organizers then donated food baskets to families in need.

UCLA student and former California Dream Network state-wide organizer Justino Mora said supporters are using the holiday to call on President Obama and Congress to recognize immigrants as equals. He said deportations have broken up families and lives.

"I know several people who are currently [in the process of] deportation and that is very sad, because many of them are dreamers," he said. "They're doing their best to graduate from college, get a degree and contribute back to the communities and economy."

Volunteers, including students from the nearby high school, distributed a free meal to attendees at the church, as well as food baskets to needy North Hollywood community members.

Ofelia Padilla, who helped out at the event, said they're trying to serve people faster, even though the quantity of food needed has increased in recent years.

"Five years ago, people were waiting a long time and they were just getting frustrated," she said. "Thank goodness we have never run out of food, we always have enough."

With contributions from Andrea Wang

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