After Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, newly arrived loncheras, or taco trucks, provided an invaluable and overlooked service, feeding cleanup crews and reconstruction workers. Yet despite the important role these Latinx food vendors continue to fill and their growing popularity among the non-Latinx community, these entrepreneurs face challenges in accessing political and cultural legitimacy. Situating the experiences of lonchera vendors within the larger political economy of U.S. immigration legislation and food truck policy demonstrates how national trends, instead of local realities, are used to shape policies that impact these food vendors. This article uses an ethnographic framework based in New Orleans to argue that the regulation of loncheras maps onto the criminalization of immigrant communities through an emphasis on licensing and documentation. Juxtaposing the case studies of two mobile food vendors, Mateo and Magda—both undocumented—allows for a critical analysis of the ways immigrants navigate bureaucratic systems to make ends meet.

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