LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles celebrated its immigrant history Thursday with a ceremonial groundbreaking downtown at Cesar Chavez Avenue and Spring Street.
The city is building a 7,000-square-foot plaza to honor the 4.5 million Mexican nationals and other immigrants who came to the U.S. for the "bracero" work program from 1942 to 1964.
"People needed help in the agricultural fields, in the railyards, in manufacturing, and Mexicans came to the call to assist the United States in that labor shortage," Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar said.
A model unveiled Thursday will soon be a 19-foot monument that will stand as the centerpiece of the square. It depicts Mexican man leaving his family to head north.
Huizar's father was one of them.
"The statue represents a great sacrifice Mexican immigrants underwent who participated in the bracero program," Huizar said as he held back tears.
Artist Dan Medina designed the monument.
"I think if there's ever a time to talk about immigrants and their lasting effects on who we are, it's now," he said.
Wednesday's groundbreaking comes after the Department of Justice sued California for extending protections to undocumented immigrants.
Huizar addressed the political climate, and had this message for President Trump:
"Let us remind him that many braceros came here, worked hard and built this country," he said.
Construction for the plaza is expected to start next month and should take about nine months to finish.