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.

NEW ORLEANS — Two Honduran men face deportation even though a U.S. Department of Homeland Security staff lawyer recommended that the migrant workers be released because they were improperly arrested by Louisiana police in a case of alleged ethnic profiling.

Gustavo Barahona, 29, and Jose Adan Fugan, 36, were arrested along with three other men by New Llano police on May 29 outside a motel in the western Louisiana town as they waited to go to work early that morning.

In a Sept. 21 email inadvertently sent to the men's immigration lawyers, DHS attorney Megan H. Mack recommended releasing the men from custody because they appeared to be arrested "solely for an immigration status check."

The arrest was improper because the New Llano police appeared to target them "based on their ethnicity and the way they were awaiting pickup for a job," said Mack, the DHS officer of civil rights and civil liberties in Washington.

She reviewed the case after the men's lawyers brought it to her attention, noting they were never charged with a crime. Mack said profiling is "not a legitimate" police practice unless there are extraordinary circumstances or a threat.

After being arrested, the New Llano police called in Border Patrol agents who ran immigration checks on the men, the email said. Barahona and Fugan have been in custody ever since. The three other men were released.

Council passes Mayor Landrieu’s HireNOLA initiative, though questions abound BY JESSICA WILLIAMS| JWILLIAMS@THEADVOCATE.COM The New Orleans City Council on Thursday unanimously backed Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s push to get more local and disadvantaged workers hired on city projects, though questions remain about how the mayor’s policy will play out in practice. The program, dubbed Hire NOLA, is part of the city’s Economic Opportunity Strategy, launched last year in response to an unemployment rate among the city’s working-age African-American men that one recent study pegged at 52 percent. Under the policy, businesses with applicable city contracts must first turn to the city’s Office of Workforce Development to find new hires. They must make “good-faith efforts” to award hours to local and disadvantaged workers, with the ultimate goal of having half of all hours go to local workers, and 30 percent of all hours go to disadvantaged workers.

'Hire NOLA' local hiring law approved by New Orleans City Council

By Robert McClendon, | The Times-Picayune Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration has billed a local hiring law approved Thursday (Oct. 31) by the New Orleans City Council as a valuable tool in attacking poverty and unemployment, but the construction lobby says it could do more harm than good, and it remains to be seen exactly how the requirements will be enforced or verified. Nevertheless, the measure, which the administration has dubbed "Hire NOLA," was greeted enthusiastically by labor activists who said it was better than the status quo. On major city contracts, only about 21 percent of the work hours are performed by local workers, according to the Landrieu administration. About 52 percent of the city's black men, meanwhile, are out of work, according to an oft-cited administration statistic. Stand with Dignity, a grass roots group that has lobbied hard for the city to use its tax dollars to address social equity, held a rally in support of the rules in front of City Hall.

New Orleans council approves living wage ordinance

Starting January 1, $10.55 will be the minimum wage for certain companies that do business with the City of New Orleans, the result of a unanimous vote by the City Council Thursday (Aug. 6) to approve a so-called living wage ordinance.
The measure was heralded by advocates and workers alike, though nearly everyone who spoke at the meeting said that $10.55 is not truly a living wage in New Orleans. "It's personal to me," said Harold Brooks, a construction worker for a nonprofit that gets city money. "I live in this city too, but I have to work two or three jobs to take care of my kids and grand kids. "I want to be able to go to a Saints game. I want to be able to take a day off to enjoy Mardi Gras. I should be able to live in and enjoy this city that I live in." A Loyola University researcher said that a single-parent would need about $22 per hour to live a reasonable life in New Orleans. Two working parents would need at least $13, she said. Councilman Jared Brossett, who sponsored the measure and shepherded it through eight months of revisions and negotiations with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, acknowledged that $10.55 wasn't enough. Nevertheless, he said, it's better than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which, if it had kept up with inflation, also be at $10.55 by now. "I won't accept city funds going to pay poverty wages", he said. "I want New Orleans not to just be a great place to visit, but also a place to live and raise a family at any income level."