News Briefs

Boustany supports fence along the border, tear gas furor in New Iberia and more


Lafayette Republican Congressman Charles Boustany is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants ' both sets of his grandparents migrated to America for a better way of life. That's what makes his vote last month on the Secure Fence Act of 2006 so curious. The law calls for more than 700 miles of two-layered reinforced fencing along the U.S.'s southwestern border. In a prepared statement following the vote, Boustany argued the existing "porous borders continue to threaten the security of the American people."

When his office was contacted to explain how Boustany balances his proud immigrant roots with his tough stance on immigration, Boustany spokesman Paul Lindsay was quick to differentiate between the two. "Congressman Boustany is proud of his heritage, but he has a strong stance against illegal immigrants coming into this country," Lindsay says. "There's a difference between the two. Not securing our borders would be a disservice to legal immigration, meaning those we can absorb in a reasonable and orderly fashion." ' Jeremy Alford


Incensed after the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department used tear gas on a crowd after the Sugar Cane Festival, residents of New Iberia's largely African-American West End neighborhood met with an attorney to consider a class action suit against the sheriff's department. Approximately 40 citizens who suffered injuries from the tear gas gathered Monday morning at Gator's Barbeque, the epicenter of the incident at the intersection of Hopkins and Robertson streets, to meet with Opelousas attorney Jarvis J. Claiborne. "I was right there on the corner," complains Levi Westley Jr. "There were two cops ' a white lady and a white man. They got back there, on Robertson, and lobbed the tear gas canisters over Gator's building into the road." Westley says the tear gas caused him to miss two days of work. "If there's a lawsuit filed, I'm filing with them."

The incident occurred when a large crowd gathered for a block party following the final Sugar Cane Festival parade Sunday, Sept. 24. According to the sheriff's department, pedestrians and double-parked cars blocked traffic along the state highway. Sheriff Sid Hebert told The Daily Iberian that deputies first tried to keep what he characterized as an unruly crowd from blocking the street using a public address system. Hebert said the deputies only resorted to tear gas after authorities were unable to keep traffic flowing.

Many eyewitnesses to the scene dispute Hebert's account.

West End resident Elaine Butler says she was at the block party when she saw revelers start to run away. "They [deputies] threw tear gas at people who were laughing and dancing. They threw it into the back of a pick-up truck where there were kids. No one was blocking the street. There was no fighting; everyone was having a good time. And they didn't do no sign or no bullhorn. I feel it was wrong the way they took action. Just because you have a uniform on ' come on, you got to earn the people's respect. They claimed they had a fight, they claimed there was a guy walking down the street with a big gun. It wasn't true."

City Councilman Raymond "Shoe-do" Lewis, who represents part of the district, attended the event but left about 7:30 p.m. before the tear gas incident. "I was so proud, because all weekend, we hadn't had one incident of any violence on the West End, [and] that is deemed a troubled area," Lewis says. The councilman has a list of more than 100 people who signed on as witnesses to the altercation. "All the sheriff's people had to do was get out of their vehicles and direct traffic. There is no justification for what happened," he says. "This group of vigilante deputies are acting like in the civil rights days, like the sheriff acted in Selma, Ala., violating people's civil rights." Lewis says he has contacted U.S. Attorney Donald Washington's office, the governor's office and 16th Judicial District Attorney Phil Haney. "The sheriff can't investigate himself," Lewis says. A community meeting to discuss the incident with city and parish officials is planned for Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Center in West End Park in New Iberia.

The Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department did not return calls for comment. ' Mary Tutwiler


It's that time of year again. The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, one of the state's most influential lobbies and a group that regularly contributes money to pro-business politicos, has released its annual voting record. From 2004 to 2006, the House and Senate members with the worse voting records, according to LABI's tally, are both Democrats from New Orleans ' Sen. Diane Bajoie, with 28 percent, and Rep. Juan LaFonta, with 22 percent. The highest voting records in the upper chamber belong to Sen. Robert Barham, R-Oak Ridge, with 97 percent, and Lafayette Republican Sen. Mike Michot, with 91 percent. In the House, it's a tie between Reps. Carl Crane, R-Baton Rouge, and Mert Smiley, R-Port Vincent, who both chalked up a 99 percent score. LABI officials say "only key business votes" were included in the tallies, and those where the business lobby took a "clear, broad-based position." For more info, visit ' JA