Undocumented Families in Flint Afraid to Ask for Assistance

Gus Navarro/wdet

On Wednesday it was reported that multiple Michigan lawmakers and officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The charges are linked to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that led to 12 deaths after the city switched its water supply to the Flint River in 2014. Unsafe levels of lead were also found in people’s drinking water. 

While Flint residents are still coping, resources to alleviate the situation have been made available. Water filters have been installed and donated water bottles are available around the city. 

Taking advantage of these resources is essential and simpler for people who speak English and are legal citizens of the United States. 

But what about the people who are undocumented or don’t speak the language?

Juani Olivares, president and CEO of the Genesee County Hispanic Latino Collective, speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about helping undocumented immigrants get the services they need. 

It is extremely hard to find those resources for those individuals, or families, who are undocumented,” says Olivares. “(Not being able) to get water because you don’t have a valid ID or license is insane because water should be a human right.” 

It is also challenging for people who don’t speak English to take advantage of the resources, she says, even legal residents or U.S. citizens. 

Because there’s a language barrier, they are so intimidated,” Olivares says. “They’d rather not ask for anything and just keep quiet.” 

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 

Image credit: City of Flint

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.


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