The New Orleans Police Department is planning to take steps that would provide some relief from anxiety for undocumented immigrants living in the city. Starting Sunday, police in the city will no longer be required to check the immigration status of people they encounter who they suspect of being in the country illegally, and nobody in the city will be required to prove their citizenship to officers.
Officers are advised not to take action because of “actual or perceived immigration status” or in order to comply and aid Immigration and Customs Enforcement directives unless not doing so would pose a threat to security, according to an operations manual released by the police department. Immigrant activist groups reacted quickly with praise to the news.
“Our communities fought for this policy, and we’re celebrating it today,” said Santos Alvarado, a member of the Congress of Day Laborers, in a statement released by the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ). “It’s going to improve relations between NOPD and immigrant communities, and it’s going to make all our communities safer by making police more accountable. This is a model policy we will be fighting for other parishes to adopt across Louisiana.”
NOWCRJ says it has been involved in monitoring the city’s police department and its seeming collaboration with ICE to deport immigrants since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
While New Orleans is dominated by an African-American population that makes up 60.2 percent of its residents and a white population that makes up 33 percent, Hispanics and Latinos make up 5.2 percent of the local population, according to the U.S. Census. That’s 1 percent more than Louisiana as a whole. That population has been growing somewhat quickly since 1990, when just 2.1 percent of the state’s population was either Latino or Asian in descent. The black population of New Orleans, which the Census does not break down into American-born and foreign-born categories, could also contribute to the immigrant population in the city.
The new rules for the NOPD come as the United States as a whole has engaged in a heated discussion about immigration. Republican presidential candidates have put up strong fronts on the subject, some claiming that they would deport all of the 11 million undocumented people estimated to be in the country illegally should they become president.
But Democrats don’t have the best record, either. While President Barack Obama has depicted himself as a strong ally of immigrants in the country, he has deported more people than any other modern president, and his administration recently started deportation raids targeting recent arrivals from Central America.