While the Flint water crisis has disproportionately affected Michigan’s poorest population, reports that Flint’s undocumented immigrants are too scared to seek clean water are compounding the disaster.
According to widespread reports, residents have been asked to provide valid state identification in order to receive free water bottles, filters, replacement cartridges and testing kits at distribution centers set up across the city.
Michigan state officials released a statement late Friday saying that Flint residents are not being required to show identification in order to receive free water, despite the reports. Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. David Kaiser said identification “is not required, it’s just requested” as part of the “long-term recovery effort” to track where the water supplies are going.
Even without the ID requirement, the city’s approximately 1,000 undocumented immigrants are reluctant to be in the vicinity of police, National Guardsmen or other authorities who could potentially challenge their status in this country not to mention that Michigan law prevents undocumented immigrants from applying for driver’s licenses and other forms of identification without proof of legal presence.
The local ABC affiliate interviewed one woman saying that was exactly her fear.
“I got close to see what they were giving out, and it was water. And the first thing they asked me for was my license,” the woman told ABC 12, which identified her as Lucia but did not use the single mother’s last name or face because she’s undocumented. “I’m not here legally. And I’m always scared that they’ll arrest me, and then deport me.”
The water in Flint a city that is predominantly African American and one of the poorest in the nation became contaminated with lead after state officials decided to change the water source from Lake Huron to the polluted Flint River in April 2014 in an effort to save money.
Volunteers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church concurred that many of the undocumented residents they had met in Flint are too afraid to seek help or accept deliveries of water and filters.
“They hear the knock on the door or see the police or somebody of authority and they’re afraid to open the door. They’re not even going to open the door,” said church member Mary Mosqueda in an interview with local CBS affiliate WWMT.
To make matters worse, it appears that many of the city’s undocumented immigrants were not even aware of the lead poisoning until recently.
Deacon Paul Donnelly of the local St. Mary’s church, which has been helping the city’s immigrants obtain water, told ABC 12 thatmost of the residents are Hispanic and just learning English and were not aware of the extent of the toxic water crisis:”Some of them only in the last two weeks, one week, [found out] because they’ve heard about the lead from family members who live far away.”