As debate swirls nationally over "sanctuary cities," the New Orleans City Council has passed a resolution to make New Orleans a "welcoming city," particularly for non-English speakers and immigrants to the city.
District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell's resolution, which was passed unanimously on Oct. 1, aims to "create a more inclusive, receptive city environment for all local populations" by creating or finding more funding for better language access, from Spanish and Vietnamese 911 and police services to bilingual hires and multi-language signage at City Hall.
The resolution also calls for adding "real-time translation services" (as part of its compliance with a federal consent decree) with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), creating "cultural competency" measures at City Hall, and increasing economic opportunities for non-English speakers. Other measures include asking NOPD to note how often translators are called to a scene and requiring that EMS responders know basic Spanish.
District E Councilman James Gray said he wants to "challenge all the citizens in this room to do what I did and take a DNA test, and I think you'll find you're all a little bit of everything.
"This great country is being built by immigrants," Gray said. "For us to not welcome them is for us to be like the man who crosses the bridge then turns around and burns it."
"We are committed to true inclusion of all of our residents, whether your grandmother lived here or you just got here," said Council President Jason Williams.
Welcoming Cities and Welcoming America initiatives — as well as President Barack Obama's Building Welcoming Communities Campaign — have picked up support in cities throughout the U.S. Cantrell said she was compelled to draft a resolution following a 2014 report from Puentes New Orleans, the Committee for a Better New Orleans and the New Orleans Health Department that included results from a Hispanic health survey ("I Don't Know Where to Go: Latino Community Health Issues in New Orleans") finding that 20 percent of respondents said they didn't know where to go to receive care.
Puentes found that only eight of 29 community clinics and area hospitals have Spanish-speaking employees (only 13 percent of respondents were able to read English). Last year, Cantrell said she considered introducing a measure to create a municipal ID card as an "official" identification card for non-citizens. Her resolution doesn't create them but rather asks for NOPD to recognize "certain forms of identification in lieu of state-issued identification."