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Hiding in Harvey’s shadows

Most of the people who have been affected by Harvey have begun to get help for their recovery. Undocumented immigrants represent the bulk of those who have not.

The water surged into the modest low-lying apartments with the full force of nearby overflowing Greens Bayou, slamming toys and tiny buckled shoes onto countertops and overturning chairs.

Byron Soto waded through knee-high water, carrying his toddlers to a second floor. But as the menacing tide edged closer, he used a friend’s inflatable boat to get to a vacant apartment on higher ground at the complex where he and his family are still camped out.

He, and others like him in the flooded apartments near Interstate 10 and Federal Road, didn’t think about calling 911. Instead, they did what they often have had to do while living illegally in the United States: They improvised.

After all, who would come to their rescue? The president wants them deported. The governor and state Legislature enacted a law allowing police officers to report them, though a federal judge blocked it late last week. Their labor will be needed for the massive reconstruction ahead, yet they are fearful of stepping forward to help their community recover.

“I’m afraid,” said Soto, a 31-year-old construction worker from Guatemala who has been here for a decade. “They’re going to deport me and then what would happen to my kids?”

This is a human tragedy and it breaks my heart. The city of Houston and Mayor Turner have done the right thing by assuring everyone they will get the assistance they need and will not be asked about their immigration status, but these folks have a lot of reasons to be afraid. And now with the termination of DACA, things aren’t about to get any better. If a society is judged by how it treats its poorest and neediest, we’ve got a lot of room to improve.

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3 Comments

  1. Harry says:

    So many of of these folks were living in sub-standard housing already, and this is really going to make things a lot worse. And landlords often know this is and purposely don’t follow the rules because… what are the undocumented tenants going to do?

    A household is eligible for FEMA funds if someone in the house is documented – even if it’s a minor. But that leaves a lot of households out. Hopefully, the City of Houston (whose mayor touts how welcoming we are to people of every faith, orientaiton and national origin) will help find a way to help out people who fall between the ever-widening cracks of federal assistance.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    Byron and his family can get a free plane flight back to Guatemala, out of the flood zone, and we can get on with the business of helping Americans overcome this disaster. What is FEMA doing? Helping families relocate somewhere safe from the devastation of Harvey. I think Guatemala is far enough away, don’t you?

    I think we have seen that yes, Americans are quite capable of gutting flood houses and businesses, and you don’t have to be an illegal alien to install, float and tape drywall, to paint, to lay carpet, or any of the other reconstruction trades we will need to get back up and running.

  3. Ross says:

    @Bill, you obviously haven’t talked to anyone who hires those sorts of construction trades. Without the illegal aliens, the number of skilled workers drops by about half. There are also issues with being able to hire workers who actually show up and do their job every day, rather than calling in drunk, tired, high, or just don’t care. The same issue occurred in Alabama when the state cracked down on illegal alien field workers. Crops rotted in the field, despite the fact that the average wage for a field worker was over $20 per hour. Many Americans just don’t feel like doing the hard jobs day in and day out.