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Immigration Law Associates, PC

Flint Water Crisis Affecting Undocumented Migrants

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The recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan is devastating and one would think it could not get any worse, but indeed it has for undocumented residents.  Finally after national attention, the Michigan state government has mobilized a response to the situation in Flint.  The National Guard is distributing free bottled water and filters in the affected areas.

Unfortunately, for undocumented people in the region they are either being turned away or too afraid to ask for help.  What is even worse is that many have continued to drink the contaminated water as they do not understand English and the outreach to Spanish-speakers has been limited, if at all present.  Furthermore, the recent ICE raids have scared many undocumented people into hiding.  So in cases where the National Guard officers are going door to door to deliver water for the elderly and disabled, the undocumented are not opening their doors.  If no responds, the officers are instructed to leave a flyer containing information as to how to receive the clean water for free, except these papers are only in English.

The problems arise in that in Michigan, immigrants without legal status are unable to obtain driver’s licenses or state-issued forms of identification, a critical problem in many states.  And at many of the water distribution centers, officials are requesting forms of identification or social security numbers in exchange for the much-needed clean water.  Officials argue that this is just a precaution and an administrative necessity to maintain their records and verify where resources are allocated.  This has been addressed and officials have apparently stopped asking for identification, but undocumented people have argued that not all distribution centers have followed suit.  Churches and advocacy groups are attempting to help the undocumented, but more efforts are needed from the state level for this disadvantaged group.  It’s a devastating reality that these individuals who risked their lives to flee violent and often unsanitary conditions in their home countries are now being poisoned by contaminated water in the United States of America. 

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