Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Today is Immigrant Day in California - what is it?

It's not a holiday. Nor does it have anything to do with a 1987 federal proclamation declaring October 28 of that year "National Immigrants Day," which isn't a holiday either, but which some have celebrated on that day since.

What's being referred to today as the 16th annual Immigrant Day is rather a day of activism in Sacramento, what one advocacy site last year described as "a statewide advocacy day organized to champion immigrant integration in our community."

Advocacy, civil rights, faith and other groups converge the state capitol to rally, and to lobby for legislation that would favorably affect immigrants. Busloads of participants from throughout the state traveled to Sacramento to attend a rally today at the Capitol Building, followed by meetings at legislators' offices.

The California Immigrant Policy Center, a group involved in the organizing, has this on its website:

Each May for the past 16 years, immigrant communities and supporters from around California have traveled to Sacramento to visit their legislators and raise awareness about the critical issues facing California’s immigrants, who now make up more than a third of the state's workforce and a quarter of its population.

Up for discussion this year are bills addressing the controversial Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, domestic workers' rights, religious freedom in the workplace, the children of deportees in the child welfare system, and protecting immigrants from health care fraud.

What about the other Immigrants Day? That one has a story also, although it's not advocacy- related. In response to the proclamation designating October 28, 1987 National Immigrants Day, a Huntington Park, Calif. tailor and immigrant from Greece set out to make it a big celebration the following year. It may not have taken off to the extent that he'd hoped. But the end result over the years has been a long list of municipalities - many with substantial immigrant populations, Huntington Park included - declaring October 28 Immigrants Day in their cities.

Meanwhile, some have circulated petitions for an official holiday recognizing immigrants. One more curious fact: October 28 is celebrated because it's the day that the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the government of France, was dedicated in New York Harbor in 1886.