The Immigrant Experience in Hurricane Season

Immigrant families were more fearful that reporting property damage caused by Hurricane Harvey would draw negative attention from authorities.

Graphic showing how worried immigrants were about claiming Harvey damage

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Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas in August of 2017, challenging the health care, wellbeing, and safety of Gulf Coast residents. Immigrant families felt particularly fearful that reporting property damage and losses caused by the storm would draw negative attention from authorities. This fear was heightened as Border Patrol kept checkpoints open immediately following the storm.

Earlier this year, the Kaiser Family Foundation published survey findings on the impact of Harvey on immigrants in the Texas Gulf Coast. The figure above shows that immigrants whose homes Harvey hit reported feeling more worried about seeking help for storm-related damages than their native-born counterparts. About 34% of immigrants responded that they were very worried that reaching out for help would highlight their own or a family member’s status. Only 5% of native-born residents responded similarly. Immigrants were also less likely to have flood or home insurance, or to apply for governmental disaster assistance.

Federal Emergency Management Agency’s policies do not guarantee Disaster Unemployment Assistance to undocumented individuals. Fear of disclosing immigration status may act as a barrier to help seeking and ameliorating storm damage, but such worries may be warranted.

Databyte via Bryan Wu, Liz Hamel, Mollyann Brodie, Shao-Chee Sim, and Elena Marks, Hurricane Harvey: The Experiences of Immigrants Living in the Texas Gulf Coast. Kaiser Family Foundation.