Thousands of children have been at risk of lead poisoning as a result of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. As state lawmakers are scrambling to secure safe drinking water for residents, reports of another vulnerable population facing serious danger due to unsafe water are emerging.
According to ABC12, as many 1,000 undocumented immigrants who are long-time residents of Flint are intentionally avoiding the city’s water distribution centers, fearing that revealing their legal status will expose them to possible deportation and separation from their homes and families:
Lucia has been living in Flint for more than a decade. She left Mexico 23 years ago. We’re not using the single mother’s face or name, because she’s undocumented.
“I’m not here legally. And I’m always scared that they’ll arrest me, and then deport me,” she said.
Lucia heard about lead in Flint’s water four months ago from her son. Since then, she’s been buying bottled water – and she won’t get close to a distribution center after a recent experience.
“I got close to see what they were giving out, and it was water. And the first thing they asked me for was my license,” she said.
Some local groups have been quietly going around the east side trying to distribute water, but the problem is a lot of these undocumented immigrants are scared – and they won’t even open the door for them.
“Some folks we’ve found are very nervous about being found. They want to avoid talking to any strangers,” said Deacon Paul Donnelly, at St. Mary’s church.
Some of these immigrants are instead purchasing bottled water on their own for bathing, cooking, and drinking, which can become expensive and burdensome. According to the report, other immigrants, because of language barriers, are simply unaware of the lead in the water.
This is a disturbing development, and we’ve become aware of national news organizations looking for more information (If you are an undocumented immigrant directly affected by the Flint water crisis, please let us know).
This is a public health and humanitarian crisis, and city officials must soon clarify if undocumented immigrants in Flint — many of whom pay their local taxes like any other city resident — can safely access water at distribution centers without fear due to their legal status.