NEW ORLEANS, La. — Confronted with numerous concerns about illegal immigration and the growing Latino population here, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said that the influx of undocumented immigrants has put so much pressure on the local police force.
"It does take some resources," he said in an interview with El Tiempo New Orleans. "And, we are dealing with that."
As many immigrant workers, mostly Latinos, started migrating to New Orleans — and decided to stay permanently — after Katrina, Normand added that the local police department was not prepared for its security impact on the city.
"The reason we are talking about this now is that we have not had a large representation of illegals here. Before we have ebb and flow, as in the illegals are very transient," he said. "Then, there was an influx of laborers because a lot of folks from Houston saw an opportunity to support their families and came to work."
However, Normand, who admitted to be in favor of shutting the Mexican-U.S. border, blamed partly the illegal immigration problem on the broken system.
"I am not making an excuse for anyone, but immigration is problematic. The rules change, some are given preferences. It is kind of moving back and forth; we are jumping through all kinds of hoops. The cost now for many is insurmountable, and that is driving a lot of what we have in the difficulties," he said.
Although the city has "not seen a problem with gangs yet," Normand expects to see it coming as the population increases. "We have seen an increase in crimes in the Hispanic community and our hope for the future is to improve that condition," he added.
Normand believes that Latino community suffers from bifurcation between two different groups — documented and undocumented. Despite such split, he described most Latino immigrants as "very industrious and will do a lot more of the menial jobs that no one else will do."
Asked about the day laborers that usually gather at the Home Depot and Lowe's store grounds, where many city residents viewed it negatively, he added that "these workers are just there, like anyone else, looking for work."
"How many people who are never looking for work?" he asked.
As far as making Latino immigrants aware of their civil rights and the laws, Normand said that his office has outreach programs that create open dialogues between the community members and the police authorities.
"The Hispanic community is a very friendly and engaged community. We ask for assistance, and we get it right away. They are very good partners with law enforcement," he said. "When we need to reach out, the assistance is right there. We have an emerging community and both sides have stepped up."
Anna Mejia is a writer for El Tiempo New Orleans.
Photo by Infrogmation from Wikimedia Commons.
Read more stories from El Tiempo New Orleans »