New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell signed an Executive Order that created an Office of Human Rights and Equity on March 20, 2019. The order acknowledges that “after 300 years, many residents still face significant barriers to opportunity, systems that perpetuate inequity, widening socioeconomic disparities, and continued discrimination and bias,” and calls for the creation of the Office of Human Rights and Equity.
The office is tasked with addressing human rights and equality issues on a number of fronts, one of which is involves the city’s immigrant and multicultural communities. Some efforts along those lines date back to the Landrieu Administration including the “Welcoming City” initiative from 2015 and the revision to the New Orleans Police Department Operations Manual from 2016 that specifies that “the enforcement of civil federal immigration laws falls exclusively within the authority of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).” It goes on to forbid law enforcement actions based on actual or perceived immigration status and inquiries into an individual’s immigration status.
Cantrell’s innovation is to make these efforts as well as similar efforts to people of color and New Orleans’ LGBTQ community the responsibility of someone in city government—executive director of the Office of Human Rights and Equity Vincenzo Pasquantonio—in order to help them become more integral parts of the New Orleans community. “Local government has a duty to be intentional and to identify the ways that it can address such issues, ensuring that all residents have the tools they need to live full, safe and prosperous lives,” the Executive Order says. “Effective human rights organizations work closely with our communities to craft intentional policies and strategies that uplift our most marginalized residents.”
We think this is a step in the right direction, particularly in the current political climate.