At the end of August, Hurricane Harvey displaced around 13 million people in Texas and Louisiana, including citizens and undocumented residents. Houston alone is home to an estimated 600,000 undocumented immigrants who are struggling with how to handle the aftermath of the storm. The massive storm made history. It caused catastrophic flooding and damage that will take years to remediate. As locals begin picking up the pieces, this is what immigrants should know.
While undocumented immigrants may not qualify for certain types of support, they can access other community resources without fearing reprisal. Local shelters, food banks, and other community outreach programs are not looking for documentation. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and border patrol units are not looking for people to deport. Right now, all authorities are focusing on helping everyone impacted by the hurricane. Community resources for undocumented immigrants include:
These resources represent only a small fraction of the outreach groups available to undocumented immigrants. As the recovery process begins, immigrants can trust many people and organizations within the local community for support.
Immigration agencies are not actively looking for undocumented residents, but that does not mean undocumented immigrants have the same rights as citizens. Certain individuals may look for reasons to create immigration problems, and authorities will take immigration-related actions against those accused of crimes. However, the vast majority of aid organizations, law enforcement officials, CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officials, and ICE officials want to help those in need rather than deport them.
If you experience immigration problems while seeking hurricane aid, request attorney representation. An immigration attorney who understands the current state of immigration and the hurricane relief efforts will protect your right to shelter and support.
As the recovery process ramps up, we’re trying to spread the word – if you need help, seek it. Go to local shelters and do not worry about your immigration status. We are all Houstonians and we are all working to support each other in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.