What Immigrants Need to Know After Hurricane Harvey

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.

You Have Options for Support

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:

  • FIEL (translated: Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle) specializes in immigration services. The organization held a fundraiser on September 23 specifically to support the recovery of undocumented residents in the Houston area. FIEL is currently offering recovery support and always offers education and immigration support in the local Latino community. Immigrants interested in learning more about the organization can contact the main office at 713-364-3435.
  • The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston also offers immigration and education support throughout Houston. The organization is currently accepting donations to help undocumented families who were affected by the hurricane. It serves people from all faiths and backgrounds. Those in need can reach the organization at 713-526-4611.
  • The City of Houston’s Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities. The local office has created resource pages for hurricane-affected undocumented and documented immigrants. The guide contains information on shelters, transportation, undocumented immigrant support, and more.
  • If you have a minor who has a valid Social Security number, you may qualify for FEMA assistance. The national relief agency will not question the immigration status of other household members. To apply, you can visit the assistance website or call 800-621-3362. The agency can also provide contact information for other agencies and assistance programs that may provide support to undocumented immigrants.

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.

Hurricane Support and Immigration Risks

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.

David Breston

David Breston has represented over 3,000 clients charged with Federal, State, and juvenile crimes in Texas and is a native Houstonian. Mr. Breston is a proud member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Harris County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Throughout his years as an experienced criminal defense lawyer, he has taught seminars at Princeton and helped law students with their GMAT test review.

Read more: David Breston | Blog