We were disturbed and shocked to hear reports that undocumented immigrants in Flint were possibly being denied drinking water at distribution centers, and that others were avoiding these areas altogether out of fear their legal status would put them and their families at risk of deportation.
One video tweeted by an organizer on the ground in Flint featured a woman being denied water at a fire station because she lacked an ID.
Because undocumented immigrants in Michigan are unable to apply for driver’s licenses or state IDs, they’ve left stations empty-handed. Many remain at continued risk of lead poisoning unless they go out to purchase bottled water for bathing, cooking, and drinking.
— nayyirah shariff (@nayyirahshariff) January 22, 2016
Since the initial reports, however, news of this humanitarian and public health crisis has gained some national traction, with Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeting about the reports:
Una tristeza. Las familias que necesitan agua limpia no deberían tener miedo de pedir ayuda. https://t.co/3h1j04sYxB
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 26, 2016
State officials have also clarified that no one should be turned away due to lack of ID. However, Fusion notes this hasn’t completely solved the issue:
But undocumented people here say that policy is not being implemented across the board. Officials at some fire stations simply hand anyone who walks in a case of water, while others demand identification. “Once word of mouth ripples through the community that you have to have ID, it’s too late,” said Susan Reed, the managing attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. Moreover, when National Guard officers go door to door to deliver water to elderly and disabled people, undocumented immigrants are unlikely to open their doors. Rumors are flying about the Obama administration’s undocumented immigration raids nationwide, and on social media, immigrants encourage one another to keep the door shut.
Local groups, organizations, and churches — usually more trusted within the immigrant community — are also attempting to help residents safely access clean water. Fusion:
Churches and advocacy groups here are mobilizing to address the problem. At the Spanish-language mass on Sunday morning, volunteers at Our Lady of Guadalupe church handed out free bottled water and filters donated by the Red Cross, no questions asked.
At least one local church is stepping up efforts to get clean and bottled water out to undocumented immigrants. St. Mary’s Catholic Church is handing out water to community members “with no questions asked, no identification needed,” Kathleen Tomczyk at St. Mary’s Catholic Church told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. “Our church is in a mixed and diversified neighborhood,” Tomczyk said. “We don’t turn anyone away, regardless of nationality.”
Here at America’s Voice we’ve received inquiries about what more can be done for the undocumented immigrant residents of Flint. Advocates on the ground have passed along information for those close enough to the Flint area to drop off donations.
— Juan Escalante (@JuanSaaa) January 25, 2016
For those outside the area but still interested in helping, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched by the Genesee County Hispanic Latino Collaborative to ensure immigrant families in Flint “have access to accurate information about the lead in the water, clean water distributed to their homes, and water filters.”
— Juan Escalante (@JuanSaaa) January 26, 2016