Posted by: sbilingual | October 16, 2009

Hispanic population booming in New Orleans

06:39 PM CDT on Thursday, October 8, 2009

Katie Moore / Eyewitness News

kmoore@wwltv.com

NEW ORLEANS – The nation’s immigration director will visit New Orleans Friday. This, as the area’s Hispanic population continues to boom, experts say from immigrants both legal and illegal.

Video: Watch the Story With hands over their hearts, 50 New Orleanians became U.S. Citizens Thursday after pledging their allegiance to America.

Dr. Anirudha Dasgupta has worked as a cancer physician in the area for years, but Thursday, he got the right to vote.

“My wife applied with me. She came to this country because she married me, and she’s been a citizen for 10 months now. So, and my kids were born here, so they’re natural-born. I was the first one who came here all those years ago and now I’m the last one,” Dasgupta said.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services manager Sharon Scheidhauer, in the metro New Orleans area, “Some of the largest numbers here in New Orleans come from Vietnam, Honduras and India.”

Overall, the number of people applying for green cards and those becoming naturalized citizens has grown by several hundred every year since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

But there’s one group that’s booming: Hondurans who want to live, work and vote here.

“A close family member who is already here legally could petition for you to come,” Scheidhauer said about the ways immigrants can live and work in the U.S. “The second way is employment-based. An employer asks to bring you over.”

Since 2005, the number of Hondurans becoming naturalized citizens has grown 120 percent. Those from Mexico also more than doubled in much smaller numbers.

But the boom in New Orleans’ Hispanic population is also evidenced by those you didn’t see taking the oath.

Just down the street at home improvement stores, you see hundreds of illegal immigrants hoping for construction work.

They’re also largely Hispanic, and under current immigration laws, they will likely never take the oath of U.S. Citizenship.

“Generally not,” Scheidhauer continued, “You need to have a legal way to go through the process to end up as a citizen.”

It’s one of the many topics the new U.S. Director of Immigration will likely tackle as he visits the metro area Friday.

According to immigration officials, New Orleans also followed a national trend of an increase in naturalizations.

They say a fee increase in 2007 led many people to go through the process before the cost went up.

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