After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Hispanics – citizens and otherwise – came to rebuild the city. Since then, the Hispanic population of the area has increased significantly, but a recent NPR series found that many feel they no longer have a place there.
Though they were an integral part of the reconstruction of the demolished city, Hispanics in New Orleans say that those who had previously given them jobs are now saying the workers need to prove they can legally work in the U.S.
When the city needed rebuilding however, no one asked for such documentation, leaving many undocumented workers feeling used and frustrated.
Following Katrina, the Hispanic population rose by nearly 35,000 in the metro area, with many coming for construction jobs.
But for some, immediately after they finished the jobs for which they were hired, they were rounded up and arrested by Immigration Enforcement.
Still, many of the Hispanics that remain in the area that do not already speak it are learning English, and say they just want people in New Orleans and across the U.S. to understand why they are here. Though some understand why Americans say they “don’t belong here.”
‘I mean, the word illegal, I do understand that…Of course, illegal means illegal. I do understand,’ 37-year-old construction worker Hugo Torres said. ‘But with all this violence in Latin America like in Mexico and Central America, it is very difficult to live there. And I think the only way where we can see a future is in the United States.’