Since Katrina, the Hispanic population in the New Orleans metro area has skyrocketed by more than 33,000 people. That's a 57-percent increase in the past decade, much higher than the national average.
They came for the construction jobs — and they've chosen to stay. Often, you can find about a dozen Latino men hanging out near a home improvement store looking for work near a mostly black neighborhood.
Yohanni Castillo, 38, a carpenter from Honduras, says he's been here since the early days of Katrina.
"Carpentry, demolitions, any kind of construction," he says. But lately, he says there's been less work available.
Castillo says the main problem is that employers want workers who have the papers to prove they're here legally. Right after Katrina, no one really cared. The other problem, he says, is that sometimes he doesn't get paid the wages he's been promised.
And everybody here can tell you the same story, Castillo says, because it's happened to everyone.
Demographer Alison Plyer says the Hispanic influx since Katrina should surprise no one.
"There's actually a phenomena demographers call 'hurricane chasers,' where, whenever there's a hurricane in Florida or along the Gulf Coast, Latinos will go because they know there will be debris removal work and home repair work, and then they assume that they will stay just a little while and they will go somewhere else," Plyer says. "But here that work lasted for several years and so folks stayed."
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