Up until just about today, the outpouring of reporting from Flint, Mich. had forgotten the stories of the people it’s easiest to forget: undocumented immigrants. But this afternoon, several articles were published within hours of each other focusing on the specific plight faced by the undocumented in Flint.
Though the water crisis there has reached a point in the national consciousness where Diddy and Mark Wahlberg have announced that they’re sending 1 million bottles of water (produced by a company they invest in) to the city, it remains a challenge for Flint’s undocumented residents to access information and supplies necessary to protect themselves and their families.
Those bottles of water, which are being given out across Flint as the city assess the exact extent to which its water system is damaged, are not reaching every hand. As you can read in Vox, some state-run water bottle dispensaries have been requiring people to show ID before they can walk away with any water. The logic behind this, I guess, is so that people from neighboring towns can’t come to Flint and take water bottles not meant for them, but those people have access to clean water, so what would they care? In any event, this system leaves out a whole a strata of people: poor folks, the homeless, and, primarily, undocumented immigrants.
“I went to ask for water from the fire station, and they asked for my social security number, so I left,” said Estella Arias, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. “I feel bad that I can’t get the help… I don’t want to expose my kids to lead.”
Fear of deportation has made it so that even door-to-door efforts to provide residents with clean water may be unsuccessful. Per Tolan:
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.
At Vice, Natalie Zarowny notes that a bulletin issued by the state says that ID is no longer required to get free water from five local firehouses, but some undocumented residents are too wary of authorities to heed the message. Said one unnamed woman:
“I’m not here legally, and I’m scared that they’ll arrest me, and then deport me,” she said.
Even more troubling is the information gap between when certain residents even heard about the problems with Flint’s water. Tolan talks to one resident who was drinking the water up until a few months ago, but worse is a woman named Maria who was consuming tap water long after the Flint crisis became a national story.
Maria, another undocumented immigrant who asked not to use her last name, said she only heard about the water problem three days ago, and had been drinking tap water regularly until then. She’s developed a bad rash on her legs, and thinks it’s from the water