Hundreds in NOLA attend rally and court hearing on illegal immigration

Hundreds in NOLA attend rally and court hearing on illegal immigration

Hundreds blocked the intersection of Poydras Street and Loyola Avenue Friday near the local headquarters for ICE. Using bullhorns, they shouted, criticizing the federal government for deporting people who entered the country illegally.

The rally on the street was happening as a hearing was underway inside the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal. The court was weighing whether to keep in place the preliminary injunction blocking President Obama's executive order on immigration which would give a reprieve to five million illegal immigrants in the country and allow them to get work permits.

The appellate court had earlier issued the injunction as part of a lawsuit filed by Louisiana and 25 other states who contend the president overstepped his bounds.

"We also have seen Immigration go to people's houses and doing raids, grabbing people out of their homes without any arrests warrants," said Fernando Lopez of the Congress of Day Laborers.

"I love Mexico, I love Latin America culture," said Hy McEnery of the Greater New Orleans Tea Party.

Still, McEnery says enough is enough in terms of illegal immigration.

"Seal the border, really seal it. Turn the National Guard - and of course the Border Patrol loose - and stop it. Seal the leaks," he said.

A woman attending the rally who identified herself as Norma Sanchez answered questions through a translator.

"I think it doesn't matter who has papers and who doesn't, but we're all together fighting in this struggle for civil rights and dignity," Sanchez said.

She said she has lived in New Orleans for 15 years. She now has two small children.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox issued a statement on the day's events and the agency's deportation efforts:

"ICE fully respects the rights of people to voice their opinion without interference. While we continue to work with Congress to enact commonsense immigration reform, ICE remains committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement that focuses on its priorities, including convicted criminals and other public safety threats. ICE does not conduct sweeps or raids to target undocumented immigrants indiscriminately.

ICE's fiscal year 2014 removal numbers make clear the agency's enforcement prioritization efforts are paying dividends. Nearly 60 percent of individuals removed by ICE had previously been convicted of a criminal offense; 85 percent of individuals removed from the interior of the country had previously been convicted of a criminal offense."

"I think that, you know, it doesn't matter if we have a piece of paper or not. The fact that we've been living here for years makes us from here. We work here and we feel like we're from here in New Orleans," said Sanchez.

The debate over illegal immigrants has been heightened following the recent murder of a woman in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.

McEnery said America must protect its borders and send criminals back to their homelands.

"And get them out of here, they're gone, we don't need to take care of them and keep them in jail," he said.

However, he said as a Republican, he also believes that illegal immigrants who are law abiding should be fined and given a way to become legal citizens.

"If you try to round them all up and kick them out you're not going to find them, it would create social chaos that's off the charts, it's too late for that," said McEnery.

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