Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on the local implications of President Joe Biden’s U.S. immigration policy:
President Joe Biden’s first days in office signaled a welcome shift in U.S. immigration policy that may yet benefit Louisiana residents like Djibril Coulibaly, whose 19 years as a French teacher in places like St. Landry and Lafourche parishes have benefited our state and bolstered its shared culture.
Coulibaly, born in Mali, has taught French language in public schools since 2001, initially through the state-supported Council on Development of French in Louisiana, but since 2007, when his CODIFIL contract concluded, under an H-1B visa. That visa was imperiled by administrative error in 2010, and Coulibaly, a former U.S. Peace Corps interpreter, has sometimes struggled to keep intact his right to work in Louisiana. He’s never missed a meeting with immigration officials, Coulibaly’s supporters say.
Nonetheless, Coulibaly was inexplicably rounded up in December by immigration officials at his place of work, a Lafourche elementary school, and taken to federal confinement. Expulsion from the U.S. and return to Mali appeared imminent.
Imminent, it seems, until it was not. Early this month, Coulibaly’s attorney was informed by telephone that her client would be released without explanation the next day. That’s the life some of Louisiana’s productive visitors must live.
Coulibaly may have benefited from friends, colleagues and neighbors who’ve befriended him and worked passionately on his behalf. Warren Perrin, a CODIFIL board member, said supporters included the offices of U.S. Reps. Clay Higgins, R-Lafayette, and Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, and other elected leaders.
In that he could marshal such formidable support, Coulibaly was fortunate, though to measure by his prison exit — he wore an ankle monitor and tested positive for COVID-19, while en route home — he might not have appeared lucky at all. Many guest workers in Louisiana, including those in the building trades, seafood industry and health care fields, might have fared worse.
About 4% of Louisiana people are immigrants, many from Mexico, Central America and Southeast Asia. About 40% are naturalized citizens and their educational attainment is similar to that of native Louisianians. Many take jobs others won’t by inclination or can’t by training and preparation.
As a French teacher, Coulibaly serves in a role most native Louisianians cannot do. If he were not teaching French in Lafourche, the job may go unfilled. Moreover, his native French speaker status aligns with CODIFIL’s goal of more than 50 years — to attract native speakers here to teach students whose family and cultural lineage is oftentimes Cajun or Creole French.
Presidents Ronald Reagan, G.H.W. Bush and George W. Bush encouraged relaxed borders to attract skilled and willing workers to the U.S., which is “graying” because of lower birth rates and fewer naturalizations. We need good people. If Biden can pry open the nation’s doors to them, safely and compassionately, he will create advantages for America and Louisiana.
The Advocate on the pandemic's lasting effects on Louisiana's famous festivals:
Early in 2020, we were shocked and stunned when it was suggested that we stay inside our own homes and shut down businesses except for essential services.
It is early 2021 and though it has been months since we had the stay-home orders, some things are beginning to feel familiar.
Our state hosts more than 400 festivals annually. They are an important part of our culture. We have not finished the first month of the year and we have already heard that some of our favorite events have been postponed.
The 2021 French Quarter Festival was scheduled for April 8-11. Now, it will be held Sept. 30 through Oct. 3. The 2021 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was officially postponed from its usual April-May weekends to Oct. 8-17. While there is some question whether the second festival weekend will be three or four days, the idea of a fall jazz fest would have been unthinkable not long ago.
It is affecting festivals and celebrations throughout the state: In Scott, in Lafayette Parish, the Boudin Festival has been postponed from April to Sept. 24-26.
Even with fall events, the coronavirus is likely to have an impact, meaning scaling back and putting health and safety guidelines in place.
“We’re going to remain flexible and continue to work in tandem with our community leaders and make sure that we have an event that keeps in mind social distancing and masking and some things that still may be required,” Emily Madero, of the French Quarter Festival, told WWL-TV. “We want to make sure that people can spread out and feel safe, and we are looking into potentially reducing our footprint slightly.”
“We are all ready to get together again and share that special spirit that lives at Jazz Fest,” producer/director Quint Davis said in a statement. “Your health, along with the health of our musicians, food and crafts vendors, and all of the folks that work to make the magic happen, remains the priority as we plan the return of Jazz Fest.”
Scott officials said the decision was “for the health and safety of all festival and city guests, volunteers, vendors, and staff.”
Fortunately, more people in Louisiana are getting virus vaccines, protecting more citizens from the ravages of the coronavirus and getting us closer to the community immunity we need to help us get beyond this horrible stretch. Unfortunately, since late November our new COVID-19 cases and the number of deaths have been increasing because the virus is extremely contagious and not enough people are doing the basics to limit community spread.
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot flaunt legitimate public health emergency guidelines and return to our normal diet of spring, summer and fall festivals, entertainment and fun.