ANYONE WHO THINKS THAT our recovery to date could have succeeded without the help of Hispanic laborers has been sniffing too much mold. Anyone who believes that an invasion of foreign workers to fill a need in the marketplace is unusual has no sense of history.
Hispanic manpower was mostly responsible for the cleanup and residential repairs during the early days after Katrina at a time when there were few others willing or able to do the work. Hispanics did the grungy tasks, including hauling trash and cleaning debris from under houses; many were also skilled craftsmen who did excellent floor work and carpentry.
SPEAKING OUT: Gracias a los hispanosThey are here because they can make more money than in their own country, yet in comparison to American workers, their presence has moderated costs. Without the Hispanics not only would work be delayed, perhaps to the point of not being worthwhile, but also much more expensive.
There is nothing new about virile men from economically depressed countries seeking a living elsewhere.
Much of the world was built that way. In New Orleans, Irishmen built the New Basin Canal. After slave labor was lost to planters, Sicilians were recruited to work in the sugar fields.
Immigrant laborers can sometimes be unruly and sometimes get in trouble, but they also represent a class of generally healthy young men with a wellhoned work ethic.
Communities are built that way. As always happens with immigrants, some Hispanics have been the target of mostly unfounded rumors. When they gathered on street corners hoping to be picked up for work details, it made some locals skittish, but truth is they were just men looking for work. And we needed them.
Many who have come here to seek work will return home; some will stay, and we are blessed by that. Just as previous nationalities embellished the culture, so too can the Hispanics. They are already a part of New Orleans because they have helped rebuild so much of it.