WWL-TV November 16, 2017 Salvadoran man fearing deportation seeks sanctuary in Mid-City church by Lauren Bale A construction worker from El Salvador who fears being deported to his violent home county said Wednesday he will seek sanctuary in a Mid-City church. Jose Torres, 31, was supposed to appear at a check-in with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. Instead, he said, he plans to live inside First Grace United Methodist Church in Mid-City indefinitely to avoid being separated from his daughters, who are 2 and 8, and his wife who are United States citizens. Torres said he entered the country illegally by swimming across the Rio Grande into Texas in 2005. He moved to the New Orleans area shortly after Hurricane Katrina and has lived here since. "I have worked and sweated in this city, shoulder to shoulder with my brother and sister immigrants to rebuild New Orleans," Torres said.

The Times-Picayune November 16, 2017 Immigrant takes sanctuary in New Orleans church, first to do so in Louisiana by Maria Clark
Torres, a Salvadorian and father of two U.S. born children, has lived in the country since he was 18 years old. He was expected to check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Wednesday morning. "I packed my suitcase yesterday before taking her to school", he said in Spanish speaking about his older daughter, Julissa, 8. "When she came home she called me and asked, 'Why weren't you there to pick me up?' "I told her, 'I am fighting to stay with you,'" Torres said.

The New Orleans Advocate November 15, 2017 Salvadoran native plans to live inside Mid-City New Orleans church to avoid deportation by Matt Sledge Fearing deportation to a native country wracked by violence, an El Salvadoran construction worker announced Wednesday he is seeking sanctuary at a New Orleans church. Jose Torres was scheduled to appear at a check-in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday morning. Instead, he said he plans to live inside First Grace United Methodist Church in Mid-City indefinitely, hoping to avoid being separated from his two young daughters, who are U.S. citizens. “I have decided to take sanctuary because I have two babies who need me," he said. "They're destroying me totally as the father of a family. I feel terrible — they're removing me from my daughters' lives. That is why I am fighting against these injustices.”

The Los Angeles Times October 12, 2017 by Saket Soni Post hurricane rebuilding will be done by undocumented workers—and they need protection In Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, mammoth hurricanes have left behind a colossal amount of work. The cleanup and reconstruction efforts are going to take years. That means a severe demand for salvage and demolition crews, roofers, carpenters, drywall installers, painters, plumbers and workers in all manner of other trades and skills. And if recent history tells us anything, much of this demand will be met by immigrants — migrant laborers, many of them highly skilled, and many of them lacking legal status. As a workers’ rights organizer in New Orleans, I remember what happened on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Immigrant workers surged in to tackle the huge job of rebuilding, only to be exploited by unscrupulous employers in an unregulated, chaotic and dangerous labor bazaar. The workers had little access to decent housing and little ability to protest against unsafe conditions or wage theft.

Democracy Journal "Charged for Justice in New Orleans" October 12, 2017 by Mathilde Laisne It’s a Saturday. The line winds around the block. People have been waiting for hours to get in. Inside, the hallways are crowded and the air is tense. The people who are walking out, though, are smiling. They look both surprised and relieved. They’re not here for the latest iPhone or some new trendy brunch place; they’re here for a warrant clinic. And yet we’re not in court but in a church building in the 7th Ward neighborhood of New Orleans. People from all over the city have waited all day to see a judge and clear a warrant that’s been hanging over their heads for months, often years. Almost every person who’s come in today is black. For one man who walked out the door, it meant turning an overwhelming $23,000 in accumulated traffic fines and interest into a single $9 payment. The clinic, put together by a grassroots organization called Stand with Dignity, as well as the Municipal and Traffic Court of New Orleans, the City Attorney’s office, and Orleans Public Defenders is an astounding success. In just one day, over 1,000 people came to get a warrant cleared. Most of these warrants were issued for a missed court date to pay the fines and fees attached to their case. The judges who dedicated their entire day to the clinic waived hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and fees and dealt with the underlying case, if possible. Attendees were promised they would not get arrested if they came to the clinic, and not a single person was.

The New Orleans Advocate "A chance at a new life: Warrants, some court fees slashed at second ‘Warrant Clinic’ in New Orleans" September 30, 2017 by Helen Freund It’s been more than 10 years since Anna Miller had a valid driver’s license. The 54-year-old mother of five has lived in constant fear of arrest for driving with a suspended license while facing a mountain of court-imposed fines and fees, the result of traffic attachments and warrants that just kept building up. “Nothing ever seemed to go away. You go back to court and you’re stuck with another attachment, another fine,” Miller said. “It’s discouraging.” A housekeeper by profession, she said she had no choice but to drive without a license from job to job in order to feed her family, despite the fear of being pulled over and maybe ending up in jail. “Whenever you’re stopped, you’re afraid of being arrested,” Miller said. “A lot of the jobs I applied for, I couldn’t get because I didn’t have a driver’s license.” But on Saturday morning, after getting her warrants lifted and contempt fees waived by a Municipal Court judge, things were starting to look up.

The Times Picayune "Metairie immigration arrest leaves Jefferson Parish woman 'to pray alone'" April 8, 2017 by Wilborn P. Nobles III Before Metairie resident Heriberto Hernandez Perez ended his night March 6 with a family dinner and prayer before bedtime, the father of three spent his day roofing and playing baseball with his youngest child Eric after he picked him up from J.D. Meisler Middle School. Martha Perez said her husband would always bring 12-year-old Eric to school at 7 a.m., but she said Heriberto Perez woke up early the next morning, March 7, to drive his son to school. The father, 44, and his son were five blocks away from the school when authorities suddenly stopped their vehicle at the intersection of Marion Street and Neyrey Drive around 6 a.m. She said a car pulled Perez over, and then one car stopped behind them while another stopped in front of them. "They surrounded the car and they took his cellphone, and then my husband was arrested and they put him into one of their vans. Meanwhile my son was left alone in our family car," she said.

Trump's crackdown has local law enforcement facing a slew of challenges to navigate federal immigration law and stay within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Perez, an undocumented immigrant, and dropped his son off at the family's home. ICE left the boy at the edge of the driveway, and didn't even knock on the door to notify Martha Perez, she said. A "really scared" Eric told his mother his dad had been arrested, she recalled Friday in the office of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice. "He said 'Mommy, mommy, they took my daddy,' and we were totally shocked by this news," she said.

The Times-Picayune You shouldn't have to fear arrest for too many traffic tickets: Editorial March 31, 2017 by The Times-Picayune Editorial Board Thousands of people in New Orleans are in a legal bind simply because they can't afford to pay court fines. Izell Mayes was one of those people until this month. He owed nearly $23,000 in fines stemming back to a traffic citation in 1989. His license was suspended in 1997, and what he owed kept rising. Since driving with a suspended license is grounds for arrest in New Orleans, he has feared being locked up for 20 years. The lack of a license also kept him from applying for a job with the Regional Transit Authority. But after going to the city's first Warrant Clinic in early March, his citations and fines have been forgiven. He can get a new license and apply for the job.

The Times Picayune Immigrants make New Orleans a much stronger community March 29, 2017 by Bill Quigley and Audrey Stewart We all work hard to make New Orleans succeed. But there's one group of friends and neighbors we can't do without. They contribute $7.6 billion to the greater New Orleans metropolitan area's economy. They pay $73.8 million in state and local taxes, plus $213.2 million in federal taxes. They're nearly twice as likely to own their own businesses as the average New Orleanian, with their businesses generating $174 million in income in 2014 alone. That group is our fellow New Orleanians who were born in another country. The city of New Orleans released a report last week called "New Americans in Greater New Orleans: A Snapshot of the Demographic and Economic Contributions of Immigrants in the Metropolitan Area." It demonstrates with data what we already know from our families, neighborhoods, workplaces and communities of faith: immigrants and refugees in New Orleans are a vibrant part of our city's economy, culture and strength.

New Orleans has survived far worse than Trump's threat to withhold federal grants.

They come from a variety of countries -- Honduras, Vietnam, Mexico, Nicaragua and India are the top five. They are working in a variety of sectors, including food processing, construction, manufacturing, professional services and tourism, whether as employees of local businesses, self-employed, or as business owners themselves. More than a quarter of New Orleans' "main street" businesses are owned by immigrants.
Most foreign-born New Orleanians are long-term residents: more than 64 percent of them have been in the United States for more than 10 years. And they help keep jobs here that our community needs. The report estimates that in 2014 alone, immigrants helped create or preserve 4,285 local manufacturing jobs that we otherwise wouldn't have.
Despite the contributions the report details, many immigrants and refugees in the metro area report living in constant fear --especially at a time when the Trump administration is criminalizing and demonizing them en masse for political gain. They worry about being subjected to racial profiling and arrested by immigration enforcement simply for going about their daily lives: dropping their children off for school, going to work, their place of worship, or the grocery store.

The Times-Picayune "$23,000 in traffic fines reduced to $9 for man as pilot program takes on New Orleans' court system" March 29, 2017 by David Grunfeld Izell Mayes says he can't remember the infraction that first earned him a fine in New Orleans traffic court back in 1989. All he remembers is he couldn't afford to pay it. So he missed court dates, a lot of them, and over the ensuing years, he racked up more tickets and tallied nearly $23,000 in additional fines and penalties. Mayes, whose license was suspended in 1997, says driving to work was a terrifying, daily experience, with every police car representing the threat of being pulled over, handcuffed and thrown in jail. Not able to pay even a fraction of his court balance, Mayes says he resigned himself to the risk of imprisonment every time he got behind the wheel. Then he heard about the Warrant Clinic, an event held in early March by Orleans Parish municipal and traffic court officials to help two groups of people: the nearly 30,000 people in the city who have outstanding warrants for missing court dates related to minor offenses - such as trespassing or public intoxication. And the countless number of people, like Mayes, saddled with thousands of dollars in traffic-related fines that resulted in the suspension of their driver's licenses, but can't afford to pay to break the cycle.