A natural disaster can have a huge impact on a community. As residents of Miami and throughout Florida know, a hurricane can mean displacement, job loss and financial devastation for years. Not surprisingly, undocumented workers and immigrants can face additional challenges after a storm. For many immigrants in New York and New Jersey, the storm means living in the shadows without assistance or work.
One of the biggest issues faced by undocumented workers during a natural disaster is the inability to obtain temporary housing and food. Many immigrants are afraid to come forward because they risk deportation. These individuals and families will endure damaged, powerless, moldy and dangerous conditions because they have nowhere to go and are afraid to ask for assistance.
According to recent statistics, there are 2.3 million Latinos in the New York area and at least 20,000 Mexicans were hardest hit in the storm on Staten Island alone. Since Hurricane Sandy, the Mexican government has visited the area, seeking out immigrants in hiding to help them find assistance. More than 735 people have signed up for economic assistance from the government of President Felipe Calderon, but there is only $180,000 to distribute in total.
In addition to the housing issue, immigration officials have been conducting “limited street enforcement operations,” meaning that in the future, the ICE will be resuming normal enforcement activity with continued emphasis on at-large criminal aliens.
Undocumented workers face the problems of limited housing and food resources, as well as the issue of labor. Most immigrant workers are paid in cash for day labor. Every day out of work means another day without pay. The silver lining: many immigrants are hoping to benefit from the need for clean-up assistance.
Source: The Washington Post, “Mexican immigrants in NY and NJ left homeless, jobless in Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath,” Nov. 24, 2012