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 "$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.

Shelterforce Housing Authority Eliminates Ban of Ex-Offenders July 5, 2016 by Katy Reckdahl With the approval of new background check procedures, a criminal conviction won’t automatically disqualify a person from receiving public housing or voucher assistance in New Orleans. Calvin “Cosmo” Russell would like to add his adult son to his apartment’s lease. That might be fairly simple if his son hadn’t been arrested three years ago for possession of five dime bags of weed, which ended in a conviction and a short prison term. The arrest also gives Russell a certain urgency. Though his son is 26, Russell believes that he can help him successfully transition from young adulthood into decades of stable living. Russell’s landlord has met Russell’s son and approved the lease change. But because Russell, 48, is disabled from an on-the-job injury, the Housing Authority of New Orleans helps him pay his monthly rent and must authorize any additions to his lease. In the past, Russell would not have asked. “They wouldn’t let you add an ex-con to your Section 8 voucher,” he says. “They’d tell you ‘no’ flat-out.” Even before his son’s arrest, Russell saw HANO’s screening policy as wrong-headed. Several years ago, he joined the grassroots group STAND with Dignity, which has spent four years working with other local advocates to push for a revised criminal records screening policy. The revisions were particularly necessary in high-poverty New Orleans, where nearly 1 in 4 households receives rental assistance, and per-capita incarceration rates have long been the nation’s highest and disproportionately affect the city’s African-American community, says Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. “Here in New Orleans, we’re at ground zero of the incarceration epidemic,” she says. “Folks are now agreeing that this level of disenfranchisement for people of color is not beneficial for anyone.”

WWL HANO looking to expand options to people with criminal records March 28, 2016 By Wynton Yates NEW ORLEANS -- The Housing Authority of New Orleans may be changing rules Tuesday to offer housing options to ex-offenders but not without pushback from activist groups. In August, Marlene Kennedy returned to New Orleans after serving five years in prison in St. Gabriel. "My charges were always shoplifting" explained Kennedy. After serving her time now she faces a different problem. "I don't know where I'm going to sleep tonight," Kennedy said. With nowhere to call home Kennedy is among the city's population with a criminal record unable to get placed in housing. Last week The Housing Authority of New Orleans loosened policies that were blocking ex-offenders out of public housing.

The New Orleans Advocate At activists’ urging, HANO revises draft policy on accepting applicants with criminal records March 28, 2016 by Jessica Williams The Housing Authority of New Orleans is seeking to extend a policy that would make it easier for people with limited rap sheets to live in public housing. The change would make the criminal background screening procedures HANO is proposing to use for its own units mandatory for the private entities that now manage a majority of the authority’s properties.
If the changed plans are approved by the HANO board, it would be a victory for activists who clamored for that modification last week, saying that an older proposal didn’t do enough to afford ex-offenders an opportunity to be reunited with their families.
  The authority unveiled the new plans on Friday, days after activists staged a protest in front of its Touro Street headquarters and filled every seat in its board meeting room at a boisterous public hearing. The original proposal, touted as a way to end barriers keeping many ex-offenders out of public housing, said HANO would weigh applicants’ convictions against a set of screening criteria for public and Section 8 housing. Depending on the nature and date of those convictions, officials would either admit the applicants or send their cases to a three-member panel for closer review.
Crimes that would warrant the panel’s review include convictions for armed robbery, homicide, kidnapping and several others.

Gambit I-10: Ten Things to Know in New Orleans This Week, March 29, 2016 March 28, 2016 1. Nagin subject of CNBC's AMERICAN GREED The CNBC documentary series American Greed has its season premiere March 31 with an installment titled "Ray Nagin: New Orleans Shakedown." The hourlong report, which begins at 9 p.m., will focus on Nagin's business dealings, including those with now-disgraced and jailed former tech whiz Greg Meffert. Also in the story: Stone Age Granite & Marble, the granite company Nagin ran with his sons. Nagin, who was convicted on federal corruption charges in February 2014, is serving a 10-year prison term in Texarkana, Texas. 2. Endorsements, and spoof endorsements "I am really, really irritated by these people who think they are smarter than the American people. ... I want to see the American people heard and I want to see Donald Trump president." — Former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, expressing his support for the leading GOP presidential contender. Meanwhile, the Baton Rouge-based parody website The Red Shtick ( had a story titled "GOP Establishment Hoping to Stop Trump With Bobby Jindal's Endorsement of Trump." The spoof story quoted a Republican National Committee spokesman as saying, "We're hoping Gov. Jindal's notorious kiss-of-death endorsement will finally undermine Trump's seemingly indefatigable popularity." 3. A step closer to REAL ID The Louisiana Senate Transportation Committee last week approved Senate Bill 227, which would bring state identification cards into compliance with federal "REAL ID" standards, which have been in place since 2005 in an effort to fight terrorism. Previous bills have been attempted, but former Gov. Bobby Jindal and some Republican legislators fought the move, saying it opens the door to invasion of privacy. SB 227 would make REAL ID-compliant licenses available upon request, and has the backing of Gov. John Bel Edwards. Louisianans without REAL ID licenses eventually will need a passport or other identification to board domestic flights and to access federal buildings. 4. Spring concert schedule overflowing New Orleans' spring concert calendar is starting to fill up as the 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival approaches. The Roots, the long-running hip-hop outfit (and house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) will perform a guest-filled tribute concert to the late Hot 8 Brass Band saxophonist Clarence "Trixzey" Slaughter at The Orpheum Theater April 29. Warren Haynes, Don Was, John Medeski and others join a tribute to The Band's The Last Waltz at the Saenger Theatre on April 30. The Saenger's Jazz Fest lineup also includes a Janis Joplin tribute (April 18), The Smashing Pumpkins with Liz Phair (April 22) and Trombone Shorty (April 23). The Orpheum Theater has Chick Corea and Bela Fleck (April 16), The Meters (April 22), The Revivalists (April 23), Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. (April 26) and Galactic with JJ Grey & Mofro (April 30). 5. Big change for public housing up for vote this week The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) is set to approve new rules that would allow people with criminal records into public housing, which can be a crucial part of re-entry post-incarceration. Local housing advocates, however, fear third-party property managers and landlords may interpret the language in the measure as optional, not mandatory. The proposed measure, set for a HANO board vote March 29, allows people convicted of crimes such as armed robbery and murder to receive public housing assistance, pending approval from a three-member panel. (Currently, families with household members who have been convicted of a crime can be turned away following a criminal background check.) Language in the proposed rule changes doesn't make the rules expressly mandatory. Members of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice, Stand With Dignity and Voice of the Ex-Offender, among others, are demanding HANO revise the proposed policy to apply not only to direct-run HANO sites but also to private developers who receive federal funding for affordable housing.

The Times-Picayune Gov. Bobby Jindal's food stamp policy called 'starvation plan' by Richard A. Webster November 10, 2015 -c1ee87b2b0db7e33 Dozens of people gathered outside the New Orleans food stamp office Tuesday (Nov. 10) to protest Gov. Bobby Jindal's refusal to waive a federal requirement that people work to receive nutrition assistance. They call it Jindal's "starvation plan." The group, led by Stand with Dignity, filed an administrative complaint demanding that the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services immediately reverse its decision, which the protestors said could cut off benefits for as many as 62,000 people. They also announced that 20 of their members will fast for 15 days in solidarity with families going hungry across the state. Don Everard, director of Hope House, said that despite reports of an improving economy, he daily meets people who struggle to find a job that pays them a living wage. He mentioned a woman who works at a department store for $9 an hour but can't get scheduled for more than 15 hours a week. Under the changes to the state program, she wouldn't be eligible for food stamps. "It's insane," he said.