Why I Represent the New Orleans Immigrant Workers Who Committed Civil Disobedience


In the thirty six-years I have been a lawyer, I have seen many people take brave moral actions.  I have represented hundreds in Louisiana and across our country who have been arrested for protesting for peace, civil rights, economic justice, and human rights for all. It is amazing to see people put their freedom on the line when they risk jail for justice.

None are braver than the seventeen immigrant workers arrested in New Orleans at the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These mothers and fathers, members of the Congress of Day Laborers at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, are standing up for justice and risking being deported from the U.S. They risk being separated from their children, many of whom are U.S. citizens.

These workers simply ask for the right to remain in the city they helped rebuild.  I was in New Orleans before, during, and after Katrina. Thousands of immigrant workers arrived and labored to help us rebuild our communities. They often did the dirty work, the unsafe work, for minimal wages. They stood with us in our time of need. Now it is our time to stand with them.

The workers and families who helped rebuild New Orleans live in terror today. One of them is Irma Esperanza Lemus. Irma is married with three children, two of whom are U.S. citizens. One morning, while Irma and her husband were getting ready to take their children on a fishing trip, ICE agents with bulletproof vests and guns stormed up to their door. The ICE agents forced Irma to put her baby down, fingerprinted and handcuffed her, and led her away while her husband and two children watched. Irma is now scheduled to be deported, and has to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet at all times.

Another is Jimmy Barraza, who lives with his wife and stepson Carlos. One night, while Jimmy and his wife were unloading groceries in their apartment parking lot, ICE agents surrounded them, guns drawn. They immediately handcuffed Jimmy and questioned his wife. When Carlos came out of the house, hoping to translate for his parents, ICE agents pinned him against a wall, cuffed him, and threw him to the ground in front of his mother. “For God’s sake, let him go,” his mother said.

An ICE agent answered: “There is no God here. I’m the only one in charge here.”

Immigrant workers and family members like these live in constant fear. If they leave their homes to walk their children to school, if they go to the laundromat or the barber shop or the grocery store, they will be targeted for nothing more than looking Latino, and their families will never see them again.

Stories like Irma’s and Jimmy’s, and there are hundreds of them in New Orleans alone, are the reason that we need an end to the raids and comprehensive immigration reform with strong worker protections. Until we do, people like these will have to continue standing up for justice: immigrants, people of faith, civil and labor rights leaders, and ordinary people from all walks of life who believe in that all workers deserve dignity and all families belong together.

I volunteered to represent these mothers and fathers because they are struggling for human dignity, human rights, and for social justice for their children and for others. I am a Catholic social justice lawyer. How could I not stand in solidarity with these mothers and fathers? I am inspired by their courage and passion for justice. It is an honor to defend them.

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer, professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans, and a volunteer advocate with the Center for Constitutional Rights.  You can contact him atquigley77@gmail.com


Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com.

November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation