Post-Katrina New Orleans

Two years after Katrina the population of New Orleans is still growing, but only 40% of children in the public schools are previous inhabitants. Homes are for sale everywhere and, though the prices have dropped in some neighborhoods, home prices and rents remain high. The economy is considered to have regained 79% of its former energy, in labor force size, sales tax revenue, jobs and employers. Employers are being lost in the Central Business District, since it has seen little growth in the labor force in 2007; the unemployment rate is higher than a year ago (Liu 1).

Homes being newly built or rebuilt have slowed, with only 14,000 permits being issued this year, compared to 46,000 in the first year (Liu 12). Because of the slowing of construction and the growth of the labor force, workers who are unemployed are increasing. Cost of living in the city is high and increasing, though more slowly than a year prior (Liu 2).

During 2007, the absence of further hurricans helped New Orleans continue to grow in numbers of households and jobs, though infrastructure and housing recovery is still uneven. The area is looking forward to some $3 billion in new Road Home money from Congress and some coastal protection funds from the Water Resources Development Act, which was passed over President Bush's veto (Liu 1).

Since construction has continued, there is some optimism, but public infrastructure repairs have stalled and it is hard to find public services. The Road Home program has given out checks to only one-fourth of those who should receive them. Only two-thirds of the hospitals in the region are open. Schools, public transportation, child care, libraries and other basic services are only half-restored. It appears that though New Orleans has regained most of its population and economic base, growth has slowed over the past year and the hardest-hit parishes. Orleans and St. Bernard, have a long way to go (Liu 2).

New Orleans has undergone a major racial population shift in the years since Katrina struck that city. It now faces the problems that most cities in the Southeast have faced, that were not faced previous to Katrina, because New Orleans had few Hispanics. Since it lost more than half of its population, many of them blacks (about a quarter of a million) - it gained about 14,000 Hispanics in 2006 (Belsie 1).

Many Hispanics have come to stay, as well; something that the city leaders have not expected or prepared for. The Hispanic immigrants, only 13% from Mexico and the remaining 87% from other parts of the United States, moved to New Orleans after the storm to take advantage of the construction job market. At that time, the U.S. government gave them special waivers on the immigration restrictions so that employers could hire Hispanic workers, but the State decided in 2006 that it was time to reinforce the laws against illegal immigrants. The may of New Orleans voiced dismay about the city being overrun by Mexicans, but during his subsequent reelection campaign made conciliatory gestures to the Hispanic community (Belsie 3).

Luz Molina, a law professor at Loyola in New Orleans said "You have a judicial system that has no clue how to accommodate Spanish speakers, a healthcare system that is geared toward excluding them, and a [political] system that in general is slowly tightening the noose around them," she says. "It's so short-sighted" (Belsie 4).

In spite of New Orleans' pride in its racial mixture and combinations of cultures found in music and food, the Hispanic population has never been a part of the black and white mixture. "This [influx of Hispanics] is going to create some new challenges for the city," says Katharine Donato, Sociology professor at Rice University. But "there is a certain tolerance and understanding of diversity in New Orleans that perhaps other cities new to foreign immigrants wouldn't have" (Belsie 5).

Businesses have been serviced by the Hispanic population since Katrina, but the growing number of businesses catering to the Hispanic population has only just begun to grow. This is…