Hurricane Harvey impacts Salvadoran migrants
Houston is home to large numbers of Salvadoran migrants, both documented and undocumented. Recent news stories have explored the impact of the devastating hurricane on the immigrant community in southeastern Texas. A Pew research study estimated there were 191,000 Salvadoran born immigrants living in the greater Houston area as of 2014. Tens of thousands would be undocumented, and already in significant fear under the Trump administration's anti-immigrant stance, even before last week's storm.
USA Today took a look at the impact on the undocumented community in an article titled Harvey wreaks havoc on undocumented immigrants:
In the aftermath of Harvey, immigrant advocate groups have canvassed lower-income areas of southeast Houston to see how they're doing after one of the most damaging storms in U.S. history.
They've repeatedly heard from undocumented immigrants — as well as other low-wage workers in those neighborhoods — who were concerned about falling behind on rent and other bills because of missed work caused by Harvey, said Zakary Rodriguez, an organizer with the Houston-based housing and immigrant advocacy El Pueblo Primero.
Many of Houston’s undocumented immigrants wrk in low-paying jobs in the service, construction and manufacturing industries, carving out a hand-to-mouth existence in which they are making just enough to pay for rent, utilities and groceries through hourly wages.
Some reported they have already faced threats from landlords warning that they would move to evict them if they didn’t pay rents on time, Rodriguez said.
"It is very difficult for the undocumented to raise their voice, especially with the current political climate,” Rodriguez said. "The conditions of some of these apartment complexes that rent to undocumented immigrants is already bad enough. Now these people are being exploited on top of that from building owners that have been profiting off these peoples difficult situation."Immigrants often are found in the construction industry, an industry which will boom in the rebuilding effort following Harvey. A migrant asked in the Washington Post, If they deport all of us, who will rebuild?:
Everywhere Samuel Enríquez looks, he can see the work that needs to be done. But because he is in the United States illegally, he knows he can't earn an official paycheck in this city's recovery.
The carpenter from El Salvador sits on a curb outside a home improvement store, hoping a passer-by will offer $10 an hour to help rip out sewage-soaked carpets or rotting drywall. Having lived in the United States for a year, he believes Texas is as good a place as any to seek refuge, because that's where the work is now, even if some government officials want him and others like him to leave the country.
"If they deport all of us, who will rebuild?" says Enríquez, 36, waiting along with about two dozen other laborers seeking work. "We do more for less."
It will take an army of workers to reconstruct a vast swath of southeast Texas, including the sprawling metropolis of Houston, that was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Whether the region can do it without fully embracing workers like Enríquez will soon be put to the test - with reverberations that could be felt nationwide.
If the process of rebuilding after Harvey is anything like the process of rebuilding after Katrina, large parts of the construction work may well be done by undocumented construction workers including Salvadorans. But they risk being exploited in the process if federal and state authorities decide that lifting regulation of the construction industry is important to speed along the process of rebuilding. A study by human rights lawyers in the months following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans found significant problems with workplace safety and exploitation of undocumented workers in a construction workforce which was primarily Hispanic.