Hispanic immigrants holed up in church disheartened, fearful
September 12, 2005
GONZALES, La. - At the Iglesia Lugar de Sanidad, Hispanic immigrants uprooted by Hurricane Katrina are asking themselves if the American dream is worth one more shot.
About 100 immigrants from some of Latin America's most impoverished countries have taken refuge in the church in the Baton Rouge suburb of Gonzales since Katrina ravaged New Orleans and their homes.
The immigrants - legal and illegal alike - sit in small groups talking in Spanish. Some seek the help of Mexican consular official Juan Carlos Lara, who has set up a temporary office in the church to lend support and to locate the missing.
On the wall is a poster advertising jobs in the rebuilding of New Orleans, promising meals, transportation and immunization.
"They're terrified," said Pastor Fernando Gutierrez, who opened the doors of the church after refugees arrived hungry and needing a bed. "They don't know where they're going.
"They've paid such a price to come to the United States, and they're now more destitute in many ways than when they arrived in this country of hope."
Gutierrez said that in recent days some refugees have tried to go back to their homes - or what is left of them - but have returned to Gonzales with stories of destruction.
"Some of them come back pretty sad. Their homes are flooded, and they basically lost everything," he said.
Gricelda Reyes, who is from Aguascalientes, Mexico, said she stayed in New Orleans through the storm, having just given birth to her daughter Kimberly.
"I have to be very strong for my children," a tearful Reyes said through a translator. "It's hard. I don't know how I'm doing it."