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Immigrants displaced by hurricane avoid assistance programs

Many residents of Florida are acutely aware of the difficulties a hurricane can have on day to day in the aftermath of the storm. Reports of the Superstorm Sandy made national headlines as the hurricane swept up the East Coast. Now immigrants who live in states struck by the hurricane are dealing with the kinds of unique difficulties that immigrants can face in the United States.

Officials in East Coast states that were hit the hardest by hurricane Sandy are working to provide some relief to neighborhoods and areas devastated by the recent Superstorm. But many immigrants are dealing with more than just the challenges posed by the hurricane.

News reports are coming out telling the stories of advocates who are reaching out to immigrants in hard-hit areas of the U.S. Some advocates are going door to door to inform immigrants of potential resources in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Some kinds of assistance may not be available for undocumented immigrants who have been displaced by the storm. But even when assistance may be available, many immigrants do not want to ask for the help, for fear that they may be deported while seeking the help.

The executive director of a nonprofit group that helps day laborers on Staten Island recently said, "If you are here illegally and you are at your home and see the National Guard and people in military uniform, going up and down, sure, you are going to be afraid," according to the Associated Press.

Unfortunately, some immigrants returned to their storm ravaged homes, which in the aftermath of the storm could have mold developing and other unhealthy environmental factors in the wake of the storm.

One man says that his son has asthma. Now in the wake of the storm, the family has returned home and the man's son has suffered from his asthma, which has gotten worse from the air quality he now lives with. The man says that he too is starting to feel ill as he lives in a house that smells "of humidity and sea water."

While immigrants fear seeking temporary housing or other forms of relief, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that the agency has conducted limited immigration street enforcement programs after the storm. But the agency says it will return to normal operation soon, focusing on seeking convicted felons who remain at large and may face deportation.

For the most part, many displaced immigrants have found places to stay through family or friends.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Mexican immigrants in NY and NJ left homeless, jobless in Superstorm Sandy's aftermath," Claudia Torrens--Associated Press, Nov. 24, 2012

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