Congreso de Jornalerxs offers insight on immigrant worker community in New Orleans


Courtesy of Congreso de Jornalerxs

Immigrant workers from Congreso de Jornalerxs came to Tulane to speak about their fight against racial discrimination and bias.

During the 2016 election, the world witnessed a heightened discussion on the issue of immigration in the United States. In response to this new wave of polarization, many activists groups involved with the issue have been inspired to take action and tell their stories.

On Tuesday, March 24, Congreso de Jornalerxs, or Congress of Day Laborers, spoke to the Tulane community about their fight in combating racial discrimination and bias by the police department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The talk featured labor organizers Santos Alvarado and Ilda Sarmiento and translator Rachel Tabor.

Student organizations including BridgeTulane, Community Action Council for Tulane University Students (CACTUS) and Generating Excellence Now and Tomorrow in Education (GENTE) worked together to put on the event.

Courtesy of Kate Rose
Congreso de Jornalerxs came to Tulane on March 24 spoke to the Tulane about racial discrimination and bias by the police department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Congreso de Jornalerxs is an organization within the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ). Founded after Hurricane Katrina, the institution originally formed to lobby for workers who had immigrated to New Orleans to help rebuild the city.

The workers, mostly undocumented, often faced employers who used the workers’ status to deny wages. As other organizations began to assist people who had been affected, Congreso turned to dismantle the source of the problem.

“People would always come to us when they were trying to seek a solution to instances of wage theft,” Santos Alvarado said. “But what we did later on is we just referred them to another community service which freed us up to focus on the root causes of why people can be taken advantage of us.”

The emergence of new community service organizations allowed Congreso to turn to other initiatives, including bridging the trust between the immigrant community and the police department.

Since its beginning, New Orleans has enacted legislation that prevents ICE forces from arresting and deporting undocumented peoples for things such as minor traffic violations. Congreso is focused on spreading these policy changes to more areas.

“We want to see the policies that we won in New Orleans, you know, that the police cannot become a deportation [channel] for ICE. We want to see the policies expanded to all parishes…” Ilda Sarmiento said.

On how the Tulane community can get involved, Kate Rose, an intern for Congreso and a freshman at Tulane, says it is always looking for volunteers. Whether it’s helping members with paperwork, assisting at ICE check-ins, or contacting local officials, everything helps. But she feels it is most important to stay informed.

“I think the most important thing is being aware of the struggles of this population and the fact that they came here to rebuild the city and they’re a vital part of the economy and yet they aren’t recognized for that by the police force …” Rose said.

In the criminal justice system, Alvarado feels that authorities should do their jobs, but without discrimination and over-punishment of some demographics over others.

“We want justice for all. That’s what we want… that we be treated with equality as human beings,” Alvarado said.

Congreso will be hosting a march on Tuesday, May 1, starting at 3401 Canal Street. All are invited to attend.

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