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Mexican Workers Filling Louisiana Oyster Jobs

Since Hurricane Katrina swept ashore along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico last August, business owners in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have struggled to rebuild and to reopen.

A shortage of building materials has stalled reconstruction for many companies, for others a shortage of workers has stymied efforts to revive production and distribution of their goods and products.

With hundreds of thousands of residents instantly scattered across the country, many of them finding new jobs where they suddenly found themselves building new lives, workers from Mexico were hired to fill the labor gap on the Gulf Coast.

The influx of Mexicans -- some in the United States illegally and many others with temporary work visas -- raised concerns among some people that the region would experience instant and possibly permanent demographic shifts.

Statistical surveys have not been completed on the ethnicity of people fleeing or entering Gulf Coast states, but the complexion of the workforce in hurricane-damaged areas has changed, at least by anecdotal accounts. Evidence of that could be seen in Houma, La., in December, on a visit to Motivatit Seafoods, one of the state's largest harvesters and processors of oysters, where a group of Mexican workers had joined the locals.

A return to Houma earlier this month found the group of women -- all from the same village -- hard at work and living in a group home that Motavatit Seafoods maintains for them.

The audio story was written by Stu Seidel and produced by Ned Wharton, with help from Phillip Martin and Elaine Heinzman and research assistance from Claudine Ebeid and Kee Malesky.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.