The Undocumented in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey:
No Relief from the War on Immigrants

September 4, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


Living through Hurricane Harvey was a terrifying experience for millions of people in Houston and the surrounding areas. People everywhere faced fear of being victim to the ferocious winds; of getting trapped inside homes and apartments filling up with water, or in cars suddenly stopped and becoming submerged; running out of water and food, desperately making calls, searching for help and a way to get your family to the safety of a shelter.

But the nearly 600,000 undocumented immigrants living in the Houston area faced terror on a whole other level. For them, every decision about how to survive the winds and floods had to be weighed against the possibility that they could run into the Border Patrol or local police, arrested, and be torn away from their family, their home, their entire life.

The Customs and Border Patrol announced just ahead of the storm that all immigration checkpoints would stay open—there would be no letup from the risk of deportation even in the midst of the impending hurricane. Later attempts by the mayor and others to tell people it was safe to go to the shelters did little to lessen people's fears. As a result many immigrants stayed inside homes they should have left much sooner. Others relocated not to shelters but to public locations such as under bridges, where they could have drowned. In one case a call was received: “Please, we’re in this place. We’re under this freeway. We are under this place. Please, can you come help us?”

The sight of ICE and local police "rescuers" riding through their neighborhoods on boats only heightened the fear, believing the authorities were searching for undocumented to arrest. And those who decided to risk taking their families to shelters despite the danger, worried like everyone else whether their home and all of their belongings would be destroyed by the time they returned, but on top of that was the worry whether their lives as they’d known them would be destroyed at any moment by being asked at the shelter to “show me your papers.” How many may have perished as a result isn’t known.

Many of the people in Houston are returning to their homes and apartments to see what is left of them, their furniture, and their other belongings. They are calculating the damage, counting on receiving rebuilding assistance from FEMA. But for those who are undocumented, they will be denied any rebuilding assistance.

In fact, for the undocumented in Houston, and for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, the storms are only intensifying each day this fascist regime remains in power.

In June the Republi-fascists who control the Texas government passed SB4—a law that was designed to put an end to “Sanctuary Cities” or any other "safe places" where the undocumented won’t face the same constant fear of arrest and deportation. SB4 would require city officials and police to comply with ICE, and make it a crime to refuse to do so. Texas’ SB4 would turn every cop into an immigration agent, and make any and every encounter a potential catastrophe. This law was scheduled to take effect September 1,,but has been temporarily sidelined by a federal judge’s injunction. But the reactionary governor has already announced he will appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. And this law is seen as just the start of efforts by fascists at the state and national level to criminalize “Sanctuary Cities” everywhere.

On top of all of this, Trump is expected to announce on Tuesday, September 5th, the future of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. If he ends DACA, 800,000 “Dreamers” across the country -- undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children who, through DACA, have been given legal work permits and temporary relief from deportation—will lose their work permits, and face the danger of being deported to a country they do not know, where people speak a different language, and where they'll have no way to support themselves.

The attack on immigration and on immigrants is a cornerstone of the Trump/Pence regime’s fascist vision of a white supremacist society where immigrants are considered "undesirable," "unwanted," and a "danger to society." This fascist regime has an agenda; it has a strategy for achieving it; and every day it is moving forward in carrying it out, doing great harm to people here and around the world, and to the planet itself. It cannot be allowed to continue—it has to be stopped!



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