Immigrants 'left to fend for themselves' in wake of PODs closures in Flint

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FLINT (WJRT) - (05/16/18) - Nonprofit organizations centered on helping immigrants want to make sure immigrant voices are not forgotten as the city tries to recover from the Flint Water Emergency.

A town hall panel discussion Wednesday is called Flint Water Crisis: Invisible Immigrants.

"They've kind of been left to fend for themselves pretty much," said Devin Jones, AAHC executive director.

The town hall is a collaboration between the Arab American Heritage Council, the Chinese Association of Greater Flint, the International Center of Greater Flint and the Genesee County Hispanic/Latino Collaborative.

"Bring awareness to this - not just the local government - but the state and the national government that they're still forgetting about ethnic communities in Flint with the information that's being passed out, with the town halls that they're having themselves, special meetings," said Juani Olivares, president & CEO of the Genesee County Hispanic/Latino Collaborative.

Olivares is a panelist at the meeting Wednesday along with Dr. Otrude Nontobeko Moyo (social work department chair at UM-Flint) and E. Yvonne Lewis (outreach director for the Genesee Health Plan).

Olivares knows firsthand how important it is to get out translated information to communities impacted by the water crisis, specifically undocumented immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Mai Eltahir, who helped organize the panel, says 1,000 undocumented immigrants live in Flint, many from Mexico, Central America, West Africa and the Middle East, are not getting important information.

"Having people address me or Juani or people who are working with immigrant communities as like, 'that's your responsibility,' but I think that's a collective responsibility. I think we need to hold each other accountable to uplift everyone," said Eltahir.

A big part of the conversation will center around available resources and accessibility, especially in the wake of the PODs closures. Since then, I'm told many in immigrant communities feel less safe when it comes to accessing water.

"Are these places we can go and do we trust them to get the water there, you know, without repercussions or fear of, are they anti-Arab? Are they anti-immigrant? Cause this was a problem that was actually raised earlier, needing to check state IDs when getting water, which undocumented immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers usually do not have access to," Jones said.

The panel discussion at the Flint Public Library ends at 7:30 p.m. It's free and open to the public.

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