This is the new New Orleans, and it's going through a bit of an identity crisis.
"It's a melting pot, but there are still very problematic issues we have to deal with regarding race," says Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, an African-American lawyer and former district court judge, whose district includes the historic French Quarter and Tremé neighborhood. "Not everybody has enjoyed the glut that's come to our city."
African Americans, who made up two-thirds of the city's population before Katrina, are fighting to regain the political influence they lost after the hurricane displaced thousands of working-class black families. Ramsey's election in March was celebrated for returning the city council to a black majority for the first time since the disaster.
Now African Americans make up slightly more than half of the city's population, and they've had a tense—even hostile—relationship with the thousands of Latino immigrants recruited to clean up and rebuild the city. (An estimated 10,000 to 14,000 Latino workers had moved to New Orleans within a year of Katrina, according to a study by professors at Tulane University and University of California, Berkeley.) Black workers blamed the newcomers from Honduras and Guatemala for taking construction jobs and keeping wages down. This racial tension captured national attention in 2005 when former Mayor Ray Nagin made his infamous promise to return New Orleans to a "Chocolate City."
Since then, Nagin has gone to prison for public corruption and racial hostilities have softened. Nagin's successor, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, has helped shift the tone with his push for racial unity as the first white mayor of New Orleans in more than three decades. The city's black residents have also grown more tolerant--even sympathetic, in some cases--of their Latino neighbors.
"[Latinos] are part of the community and people know they are not going away, so we are getting to know each other," said Alfred Marshall, an organizer for STAND with Dignity, a non-profit group that represents low-income, mostly African-American workers.
The number of Latinos in New Orleans has increased by 40 percent since 2000, census data shows. In suburban Jefferson Parish, the number jumped 75 percent. That growth has continued despite Louisiana's high rate of deportations. The state ranks second after Georgia for issuing the largest percentage of deportation orders, according to 2014 data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Most of the people ordered to leave come from Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Despite the high deportation rate, the total number of deportation orders in Louisiana dropped in half in the last five years, data show, and about half of those cases involved people with a criminal conviction.
But instead of hiding in fear, hundred of undocumented immigrants in New Orleans have spoken out against what they see as racial profiling and police harassment of law-abiding families. The Congress of Day Laborers, which represents the city's reconstruction workers, draws more than 400 people to its weekly meetings at a church gym near the Lower Ninth Ward. Recent guests have included the mayor, the police chief, and the Orleans Parish sheriff.