By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
Major disasters often illuminate complicated social problems in affected communities. For example, Hurricane Dorian brought to life numerous social issues in the vulnerable areas of the Bahamas. Immigration was one of those issues.
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Immigration is a complicated public policy issue that has been a concern for decades in the United States. Many elected officials have attempted to tackle this problem with a variety of policies, law enforcement and other administrative tools.
But immigration is not just a U.S. problem. Dorian left a devastating path of destruction in the Bahamas that revealed the immigration policies of other nations.
Undocumented Immigrants Are Afraid to Ask for Assistance
Some Bahamian immigrants living in the U.S. on temporary protected status (TPS) since the 2010 earthquake worry about hurricane assistance for their fellow citizens at home because of their immigration status. Trump administration officials “have decided against TPS for Bahamians because of unspecified ‘statutory obstacles,’ the time relief would take and the number of people whom the policy would cover,” according to CNN.
A letter that the Miami-based Family Action Network Movement and other groups sent to Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said: "Access to hurricane relief efforts after a natural disaster is a fundamental human right, seeking these services should never lead to detention or deportation. Fear in Haitian immigrant communities is at an all-time high and, without intervention, will prevent needy families from accessing vital services, including asking for shelter in public facilities, when needed, and protecting or assisting others."
This isn't a new problem, unfortunately. Some undocumented immigrants in the United States are reluctant to get medical care because they're afraid that they might be found out and deported.
When undocumented individuals are also afraid to ask for medical help, they can create life-threatening situations.
Immigration as an Obstacle to Leaving an Uninhabitable Place
Undocumented immigration also creates foreign policy and administrative issues that Hurricane Dorian revealed. Recently, The Washington Post reported that President Trump would not change immigration policies to accommodate Bahamian refugees, some of whom attempted to enter the United States, but were turned away, according to CNN.
While many Americans were outraged by these reports, immigration policies in the United States are strict because of numerous security problems. The hurricane didn’t bring this issue to light, but it did demonstrate situations when one might question whether our immigration policies are too strict or exactly as they need to be.
Should There Be Exceptions to Immigration Policy after Major Disasters?
Should there be exceptions to immigration policies when there are major disasters? Wouldn't exceptions and more relaxed policies create loopholes allowing criminals to enter the country? Aren’t these the questions lawmakers ask? The only difference here is that these questions come in the context of a major disaster.
Immigration isn't exactly a public policy initiative that has an easy fix. In fact, immigration is far more complicated than many people realize. Hurricane Dorian illuminated some of the problems undocumented immigrants face.