Undocumented workers who are victims or witnesses to crimes won’t risk deportation if they come forward, Mayor Ray Nagin and Police Superintendent Warren Riley said Wednesday. The two city leaders have joined a national effort by a group called the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative encouraging comprehensive immigration reform in the US. Undocumented workers have become a large part of the workforce since Katrina.

“We want to say that you’re welcome in New Orleans. You’re welcome in this country. And we want to make sure from a law enforcement perspective, we want to make sure that whatever happens, you’re treated fairly, you’re treated as any other citizen of this community,” said Mayor Nagin at an afternoon press conference at Police Headquarters.

Riley said his officers will continue their practice of not asking victims and witnesses their immigration status. “We want them to know, that unless they are the violator or the perpetrator, there is no threat of deportation or arrest as it relates to the New Orleans Police Department,” Riley said. “A person who commits a crime regardless if being a migrant worker or not, they’ll face the consequences regardless.”

They joined the former Chief of Sacramento’s Police Department, now the leader of a special interest group targeting immigration reform. “We need to figure out, we need to create a legal status for ten to twelve million folks in this country. It is not practical, and anyone who thinks we’re gonna get into the mass deportation of ten to twelve million people, they’re unrealistic,” said Arturo Venegas, creator of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative, a group that’s been pushing public support of immigration reform from police chiefs across the United States.

Representatives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans also showed their support. “We know that the issue of comprehensive immigration reform needs to be taken a look at soon. Asap. The sooner the better. The Catholic church stands behind this effort and knows that our immigration laws are broken and need to be repaired,” said Martin Gutierrez, Director of Hispanic Ministries for Catholic Charities.

Post-Katrina, New Orleans’ population of undocumented workers has boomed. How much is the great unknown and that has city leaders once again asking for the workers’ help. “We need them to come forward to solve crimes to help them feel like New Orleanians, like our citizens,” Riley said.

The most common crimes that illegal immigrants report are contractors not paying them for their work and robberies, according to Hispanic community activists.

Riley said he has not talked to federal officials recently, either the US Attorney, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement leaders, about his position on deportation and immigration reform.