The Red Cross Failed Migrants That Were Too Scared To Flee Gustav

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As Hurricane Gustav was bearing down on the Gulf Coast, Barack Obama sent an email to millions of his supporters asking them to donate to the Red Cross:

Today, the thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with those in the path of Hurricane Gustav -- and many of you are asking what you can do to help.

We do not yet know what the impact of Hurricane Gustav will be, and we hope with all our hearts that the damage will not be as great as it was three years ago.

But we know there will be damage, and there is something you can do right now.

Your financial support will strengthen organizations like the American Red Cross that are evacuating Gulf Coast residents and planning to help communities get back on their feet.

Make a donation to support the American Red Cross today.
Barack Obama (1 September 2008)

Now, according to an editorial from the New York Times, it does not look as if the Red Cross did the best it could evacuating unauthorized migrants from the area and assuaging their fears.
Here's what the New York Times had to say:

Staff members at the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, an organization of black and Latino laborers created after Hurricane Katrina, said they pleaded in vain for written assurances from the Red Cross that undocumented immigrants would be safe in its shelters.

The Red Cross has a long-standing policy of impartiality; it never asks evacuees about their legal status. But the workers' center wanted something more reassuring. It asked the Red Cross to state in writing that its volunteers would be educated about the open-door policy, and that immigration agents would not be allowed to enter shelters for raids or investigations.

With the storm rolling ever closer, and the authorities ordering people to flee, no letter came. The Red Cross issued a general restatement of its impartiality policy -- after the hurricane passed.

The Red Cross argues, rightly, that it cannot keep law-enforcement officials from doing their jobs if they have legal warrants. But it does have an internal policy stating that officials without warrants are not allowed into its shelters. The workers' center says that a simple public statement of that policy would have been enough to persuade its members to get on the bus. Instead, with mere hours to spare, more than a thousand people decided they could not take the chance of being picked up. Though short on money and access to cars, they cobbled together their own evacuations.

This storm, thankfully, did far less damage than Katrina. But other storms still loom, and thousands of scattered workers are still lying low. And the federal government and the Red Cross still lack what should be an ironclad public policy: that during all phases of a disaster, from evacuation to shelter to return, victims without papers need never be afraid of accepting life-saving help.
New York Times Editorial (6 September 2008)

Given that so many unauthorized migrants were to scared to follow the order to evacuate the Gulf Coast before Gustav hit, I am in complete agreement with the New York Times. 

The Red Cross and the U.S. federal government have to find a way to make it absolutely clear to unauthorized migrants that they will not be detained and deported due to their immigration status when fleeing disasters like this. 

Until then the Red Cross will not see any of my dollars. 

I'm going to send in media requests to the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice  and the Red Cross in case they want to respond.

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on September 8, 2008 11:23 PM.

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