Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Non-qualified immigrants are unseen and unheard after Hurricane Sandy in New York: Let my people be heard!!!

FEMA and other federal and state agencies only provide assistance to holders of Social Security Cards. These cards are issued after a person that is a (1) noncitizen national or a  (2) qualified aliens.  After Hurricane Sandy the primary source of disaster relief: the Individual and Household program and/or the Small Business Administration, was not available people that were not holders of social security cards, the so called non-qualified immigrants. (http://www.fema.gov/news-release/2013/01/22/who-qualifies-fema-disaster-assistance).

On Staten Island,  residents were surveyed (MRNY, 2012) in South Beach, Midland Beach, New Dorp Beach and Oakwood. These neighborhoods were located in New York City’s Zone A evacuation zones during Sandy. They experienced significant damage during the storm. According to the 2010 Census, 18% of residents of Midland Beach and 15% of residents of South Beach were born in another country.

On Long Island, residents of   Brentwood, Central Islip, Bayshore, Babylon, Patchogue and Long Beach were surveyed. Long Island’s immigrant population has more than doubled in the past few decades to just over 465,000 residents, accounting for more than 16 percent of the general population. According to the 2010 Census, more than 68% of Brentwood residents, 52% of neighboring Central Islip residents, and more than 29% of Patchogue residents were Latino or Hispanic.  For further information see MRNY (December 2012). Unmet Needs Superstorm Sandy and Immigrant Communalities. New York.

Most of the non-qualified immigrants are Latino’s from Central, South America and the Caribbean Island of Dominican Republic. In Long Island there is a cohort of Puerto Ricans 9although they qualify for assistance because they are U.S. citizens by birth).

The finding suggest that (1) people have lost their home, source of employment, or transportation that would take them to the place of work, and that the assistance provided by NGO’s is not sufficient to satisfy their long term needs. (2) there are strains, and emotional outburst amongst neighbors having to do with who received assistance and who did not, and (3) willing to participate in cash for work programs.

Alegria et al (2007) suggest that one of the ingrained qualities of the Latino population is the social connection. They are frequent participants of civic activities and show a willingness to help neighbors in times of need. This is the case after Hurricane Sandy except that this group is neither seen or heard by the decision makers. They are clamoring for a place in the table, where they can have a say on their future and the future of their families.

The literature on community based psychosocial support and Latinos suggest that lower-income Latino’s have been found at lower-risk of psychiatric disorders (Alegria, Canino, Simson, &Grant, 2006). Other studies (Breslau et al., 2006 and Gonzalez, Haan, & Hinton 2005) have found higher depressive symptom that may be caused by acculturative stress.

If acculturative stress is compounded by the traumatic stress resulting from the displacement, and fears generated by Hurricane Sandy, then there are long term needs for psychosocial support amongst this population that (1) focuses on (community and individual interactions that provide disaster affected people a web of social networks perceived as caring and available in times of  need, (2) targets weaving the connections among family, friends, and place that will strengthen the mechanism of social connections, and (3) provide psychosocial support activities, that serve as stress-buffering for post disaster secondary stressors.

Finally alleviate the fear of people coming forward and actively participating on the planning tables of FEMA, and other NGO’s by granting a moratorium on migratory status. Their contribution is very important for the future of our nation.

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