Undocumented immigrants left behind in Sandy recovery

People look through donated clothes in a parking lot of the heavily damaged Rockaway neighborhood.

While thousands have tapped into $703 million in federal aid after Hurricane Sandy, the city’s undocumented immigrants find themselves empty-handed.

FEMA reports 236,000 New Yorkers have requested relief in the wake of the storm, but cash assistance for things like home repairs are only available to U.S. citizens, leaving thousands of undocumented immigrants with nowhere to turn.

FEMA officials did say there is some cash assistance available for undocumented immigrants, but only those who have U.S.-born children or relatives. A FEMA spokeswoman insisted undocumented immigrants who apply for assistance will not be asked for information on their immigration status.

In the hard-hit Rockaways, community organizer Dahlia Goldenberg of Queens Congregations United for Action said many undocumented immigrants who hold domestic jobs have been out of work for a month after the households of their employers were damaged.

“There are families where two out of three adults in the household have been out of work since the storm, and they don’t have the money to fix the boiler and can’t get help from FEMA for that,” Goldenberg said. “They have no plans for what to do when it gets colder.”

She added, “They’re big contributors to our city, so they should be getting help just like everybody else.”

Communities and churches have pulled together to provide
necessities like clothing and food to storm victims, but because
undocumented workers are not eligible for Disaster Unemployment
Assistance through FEMA, their financial needs have slipped through the
cracks.

Undocumented workers who don’t have U.S.-born children or relatives are eligible for crisis counseling and non-cash emergency aid, but Queens Councilman Daniel Dromm, head of the City Council Committee on Immigration, said FEMA hasn’t clearly communicated what is available to them.     

“On signs that FEMA posted, it says you need a social security number right off the bat,” Dromm said. “There are some things [undocumented workers] are eligible for, but those signs are very, very misleading.”

Jackie Vimo, the director of advocacy for the New York Immigration Coalition, said undocumented immigrants can apply for money raised by some organizations, like the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York and the Mexican Consulate. She’s also urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office to set aside some of the money it has raised for Sandy relief to go directly to undocumented immigrants.

“Many are without housing currently and are double, triple living in crowded conditions with relatives and really stretching family resources,” Vimo said. “In terms of long-term recovery, the fact that there is no specific plan is extremely challenging, and it’s something we are working on.”

One undocumented immigrant’s story

Krystyna, a Polish house cleaner who declined to give her last name, is one of New York’s undocumented immigrants who took a life-changing hit after the storm. She was overcome with emotion as she described her struggle to pay her daughter’s college tuition even as she was out of work for weeks after Sandy.  She is too scared to apply for any type of FEMA aid because she is in the country illegally.  

“One time we went to get hot food and they asked for an ID and we ran because we were scared,” Krystyna, who lives in Far Rockaway, told Metro. “I know I am not legal here, and I can’t get anything. It’s a difficult time. I hope it never happens again.”

She was recently hired to clean a house affected by the storm, but worries that the conditions are unsafe.

“I start coughing because everything is moldy,” Krystyna said. “After three or four weeks, it stinks and we are scared to say we won’t do it because I might lose the job.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…