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Double Jeopardy: Undocumented and Flooded Out in Colorado

September 30, 2013
Plain English Version

The rivers in Colorado rose faster than anyone had ever seen. The floods destroyed the homes of the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the young and the elderly.

But one group of Colorado residents suffered double pain: undocumented workers and their families. They alone cannot get help from federal government agencies.

The United States improved its disaster relief services after Hurricane Katrina. FEMA is the federal lead agency. It gives loans, emergency housing and referrals to other federal agencies. By law, they can only help U.S. citizens and legal residents.

If there is a child in the household born in America, or if there is a relative who is a legal resident, help is forthcoming. For the rest, there are no papers to sign and no aid to be gotten.

Undocumented people who lose their homes, autos, jobs and possessions can only turn to friends and the community. It is at this time that the best qualities of Americans come out. Local governments, employers and financial donors come forward to help them.

Most of the undocumented Colorado families lived in trailers they owned. Most had no flood insurance. Many fled their trailers with just the clothes they were wearing, leaving pictures and precious possessions behind. Their homes are now marked with a large orange X, meaning “uninhabitable.”

The public response is a true example of how much undocumented workers mean to the communities in which they live. Townspeople and factory owners are helping them find housing. One official said, “We have told them that their immigration status is not our focus. I repeat, not our focus. Our focus is getting people out of the cold, getting a roof over their heads, and getting them a warm meal.”

Source: The New York Times

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