Prayer Service for Katrina Immigrant Workers: Looking Back and Moving Forward Together in Faith and Solidarity
Due to weather concerns, there is a NEW location for the Prayer Service for Immigrant Workers: The Sanctuary of First Grace Methodist Church, 3401 Canal Street. Same Time: 10 a.m. Same format. Same speakers.
(New Orleans – August 26, 2020) New Orleans immigrant community leaders and faith leaders will gather Friday morning in the Bywater to remember and recognize the contributions of immigrant workers in rebuilding New Orleans, the current struggles of the immigrant community in light of the pandemic, and long-overdue calls for racial justice, as well as to pray together for a better New Orleans.
The prayer service, titled “Looking Back and Moving Forward Together in Faith and Solidarity,” takes place from 10 a.m. to 10:45 p.m. Friday, August 28, 2020 in Crescent Park, at the Statue of Katrina Immigrant Workers.
(Enter at the drive-up ramp at Chartres and Bartholomew Streets). All in attendance will wear masks and practice social distancing.
This week marks the 15th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which led to the devastating loss of life of over 1,500 Louisianans, damage or destruction to 214,700 New Orleans residences, and a forever changed community. A population based-survey in March 2006 estimated that approximately one half of Katrina reconstruction workers were immigrants, and one half of the immigrant workers were undocumented. Those workers labored under grueling and hazardous conditions to rebuild homes and our city.
The COVID-19 pandemic deaths have disproportionately affected African American, Native American, and Latinx communities. In addition, many New Orleanians, including immigrants, have lost their jobs during the pandemic in the hard-hit hospitality sector, yet there exists no “safety net” to support immigrants in crisis. These hardships are occurring as rates of arrest and deportation for immigrants with no criminal charges have surged under the Trump Administration.
The Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New Orleans has long advocated for just and humane immigration reform and is the organizer of Friday’s event.
“We are a better community because of the gifts immigrant workers and their families have brought to us — love of family, dedication to hard work, and an unwavering faith in the goodness of God,” says Sue Weishar, JSRI Migration Specialist. “This Prayer Service for Katrina Immigrant Workers will be a beautiful opportunity to show gratitude to our immigrant sisters and brothers and together raise our voices for a more just and inclusive America.”
Immigrant community leader Leticia Casildo is co-director of Familias Unidas, which serves over 600 New Orleans families.
“Our community has fallen into a nightmare. Our families are being separated, our children are suffering. They are not being allowed their right to a family because this administration has decided to make us a scapegoat to distract from the true problems that plague this country,” she says. “We did not think our lives could get any more difficult and then the COVID pandemic struck. We will pray this coming Friday for the strength that only God can give and for the solidarity and friendship of the New Orleans community to help us through these crises.”
Rev. Shawn Anglim is pastor of First Grace Methodist Church, which has become a hub of resources for New Orleans area immigrants since Hurricane Katrina.
“Immigrant workers played a vital role in rebuilding New Orleans after the levees failed and 15 years later, they have become invaluable members of our faith communities, neighborhoods, and workforce,” Rev. Anglim says.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and then the lynching of George Floyd have laid bare the great inequities that plague our nation, including how lack of legal status, despite years of contributing to our nation’s economy, leaves immigrants extremely vulnerable both economically and health-wise. Immigrants have become a popular scapegoat of those desiring to blame the nation’s woes on others. This ‘othering’ is at the heart of the systemic racism that countless Americans are demanding must end.”
Longtime immigrant community leader Cristi Rosales-Fijardo leads El Pueblo NOLA, which provides emergency assistance to immigrants living in East New Orleans.
“The Prayer Service for Immigrant Workers will serve to remind us not only of the invaluable contributions of immigrants in rebuilding New Orleans, but that to build a better tomorrow we must address the injustices that prevent far too many New Orleanians from realizing their full human potential,” Rosales-Fijardo says.