ADVOCACY GROUP WARNS STOPS WILL UNDERMINE PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES
New Orleans, LA, April 22, 2020—In response to reports that the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) will be setting up checkpoints to enforce the City’s stay-at-home order, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice released the following statement Wednesday:
It’s mind-boggling that NOPD is using the current crisis as a pretense to try to roll out yet another dragnet policing tactic that will financially debilitate already struggling families and send more members of our community into the raging public health catastrophe inside our state’s jails and prisons. We’ve learned from stop-and-frisk and a host of other failed policies that indiscriminate stops always lead to more Black and Brown people behind bars.
In the context of a pandemic, it’s even more dangerous as the fear of fines, arrest and deportation will prevent members of our community from accessing desperately needed jobs, supplies and medical care. This pandemic is already disproportionately impacting communities of color. Asking people to risk their health, safety and financial security by interacting in close proximity with law enforcement officers will only make us less safe. The city must find a way to encourage compliance with public health measures that does not rely on criminalization and does not undermine those very efforts to save lives.
A NOPD press release sent out Monday announcing the checkpoint plan stated that the checkpoints would be used to monitor seatbelt usage as well as to check licenses, registrations and insurance. The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ) found in a 2019 study that more than 40,000 New Orleanians have outstanding warrants for municipal and traffic offenses issued since 2000. Thousands of these residents have had their licenses suspended as a result. Stand with Dignity, a project of NOWCRJ, has been calling for judges to make good on a September 2019 City Council resolution and clear these old warrants en masse to address this rampant criminalization, but despite the individual actions of some judges to provide relief, many New Orleanians are still unable to get their licenses reinstated. With the offices of the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles shut indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, those with suspended licenses or expired registrations have no way to remedy these situations anyway. With hundreds of thousands of Louisianans out of work as a result of the pandemic, the number of drivers unable to afford insurance has likely also spiked. In 2016, the New Orleans Police Department adopted a bias-free policing policy that prohibits officers from asking residents about their immigration status. Nevertheless, interactions with law enforcement carry big risks for immigrants under a federal immigration that has used even the most minor legal infractions as the basis for closing off any possibility of achieving permanent status and for initiating expedited deportation proceedings. Despite calls from the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and other immigrant advocates, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has refused to put a moratorium on immigration enforcement during the pandemic. ###
About The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ) was founded as a workers’ rights and racial justice response to the man-made disaster that came along with Hurricane Katrina. As politicians and employers attempted to use the storm to pit communities of color against each other, a group of Black and immigrant workers came together from public housing developments, FEMA trailer parks, day labor corners, and labor camps across Louisiana to build a new freedom movement: multi- racial; committed to racial, gender, and immigrant justice; and dedicated to building power at the intersection of race and the economy. For more than a decade, the members of NOWCRJ have continued to fight for dignity and justice, winning higher wages, better working conditions and pro-worker policies.