The promise of jobs in New Orleans' ongoing reconstruction has drawn thousands of Spanish-speaking immigrant laborers to the city in one of the quickest demographic shifts America has seen, the AP reports. The Hispanic population has increased from 15,000 to 50,000 since the storm, accounting for 15.2% of the population.
A Tulane University study in 2006 found that Latinos accounted for half of the reconstruction workforce, and that half of those workers were illegal immigrants. The boom has put extra stress on the city’s already thin public services, and has police and medical clinics scrambling to hire more Spanish speakers. The need for communication with police is particularly acute because undocumented workers—paid in cash—have become common targets of armed robbers.