As Texas struggles to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the most vulnerable populations are hurting more than others.
As I posted before the storm, the many undocumented immigrants in the Texas area were afraid to evacuate – unsure whether they would be stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and questioned about their legal status.
Even after riding out the storm, this population is in a precarious situtation. On the one hand, they are desperately needed to aid in the re-building effort and on the other, they are too afraid to ask for the help they need to cope with the storm.
As XicanoPwr at Para Justicia y Libertad put it : “at the end of the day, it is the immigrant community who will be cleaning up after Ike”.
For the undocumented and living here in Houston and Galveston area, they will be hit twice and will have it even a harder time than other impoverished residents surviving after the hurricane, since they are not allowed to ask for aid. Yet, cautiously, they find ways to survive. Many of them gather on street corners here in storm-battered Houston, ready for the jobs they know will come their way, sweeping up broken glass, clearing downed trees and debris from city streets, and repairing damaged buildings.
“They don’t have resources and they don’t have legal status, and we are concerned that they might not … have water or electricity,” said Fernando Garcia, the director of the Border Network for Human Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group.
“People are afraid to reach out for help as they don’t know if immigration (police) will detain them or not,” he said.
Laborers are needed everywhere from Houston, to Galveston Island, to the rural areas of East Texas to help clear out debris and rebuild. Even though they will get nothing for their services rendered because undocumented immigrants cannot get temporary homes, subsidies, Social Security checks or mail delivery promised to legal residents displaced by Ike, there are groups like Catholic Charities and Casa Juan Diego who go out of their way will help the undocumented immigrants with shelter and cash. But the intense climate of fear and language barriers are even making these services hard to access.