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Organizers put immigration at forefront of St. Pat's Day parade this year

This year, the parade, which dates to 1762, is on Saturday and kicks off at 11 a.m. at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue and goes to 79th Street until 5 p.m.

Spectators watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade on

Spectators watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on March 17, 2018. Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

Supporting immigration is the theme of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan, a march up Fifth Avenue that passes President Donald Trump’s namesake tower, near 56th Street, along the route.

Five Latino immigrants will help lead the 257-year-old parade by marching with Grand Marshal Brian O’Dwyer, an activist and immigration lawyer — bookended by fellow marchers from the New York National Guard’s Fighting 69th and the NYPD delegation, according to parade committee spokesman Bob Liff.

The parade, Saturday, kicks off at 11 a.m. at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue and goes to 79th Street until 5 p.m. Past parades have drawn about 100,000 marchers and 2 million spectators.

The 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, known as the Fighting 69th, organized originally as a militia unit for Irish immigrants, was asked to lead the parade beginning in 1851 in case of anti-immigrant violence, according to the U.S. Army, and the soldiers have kept up the tradition.

O’Dwyer is a co-founder of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Woodside, of which the Latino immigrants are clients, Liff said. O'Dwyer's father, Paul, had been president of the City Council and his uncle, William, the 100th mayor of the city.

The parade dates to 1762. 

Immigration has been a focus of the parade since after the inauguration in 2017 of President Donald Trump, who has ordered stricter enforcement of immigration laws, fewer immigrants from certain countries, and the construction of a border wall with Mexico.

In 2017, at a pre-parade breakfast at Gracie Mansion, then-Irish prime minister Enda Kenny was praised by Mayor Bill de Blasio after highlighting in a meeting with Trump the status of the estimated 50,000 Irish living illegally in the United States.

The 2019 parade is on Saturday — not March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, a Sunday this year — because of an old tradition not to disturb Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which the parade route passes.

“We know that everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” Sean Lane, chairman of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said in a written statement, “and as we salute our roots in this country, we know that today’s immigrants can enrich this city and this country as the Irish did before them.”

WHAT: St. Patrick’s Day parade

WHERE: Manhattan, 44th St. & Fifth Ave. to 79th St.

WHEN: Saturday, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.

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