Hurricane Season Response Must Incorporate Climate Justice 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2022
CONTACT: 
Elyssa Pachico  | +1 503 347 23 29 | [email protected] 
Myneilles Negron | +1 703 585 6727 | [email protected]

 

 

The past few weeks, hurricanes have brought physical, emotional, and economic challenges for communities across the Americas. Hurricane Fiona, devastated the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and caused significant damage in Canada. Not only did this hurricane season shed light on the unfinished recovery from hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, but it also revealed the ongoing fragility of infrastructure and evacuation plans, which resulted once more in significant devastation and loss of life. 

 

More recently, Hurricane Ian devastated western Cuba, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. As of October 5, over 100 deaths have been reported — an appalling toll, which makes clear the need to revise state and local evacuation plans. Once again, the most vulnerable communities were severely impacted, including mobile home residents in southern Florida. 

 

Florida’s already-severe housing insecurity will likely grow worse as a result of Hurricane Ian. Furthermore, thousands of people across the state remain without electricity. Additionally, undocumented communities remain ineligible for FEMA’s post-hurricane recovery assistance. 

 

As grim as the situation is in Florida, disparities in recovery efforts are even more evident when looking at Puerto Rico and Cuba. The dire situation there makes clear the difference in response when countries are able to govern themselves as independent republics, versus those that are considered colonies of the United States, and those affected by the U.S. embargo.

 

These systemic challenges in hurricane response and recovery can be largely attributed to housing, environmental, labor, and racial injustices that many communities have historically faced. Organized communities across cities in southern Florida have long battled against gentrification and the climate crisis — two issues that are strongly related and continue to displace communities within Florida and in Puerto Rico. 

 

As a network of migrant-led organizations across the United States, Alianza Americas laments the loss many communities are experiencing in the aftermath of Hurricanes Ian and Fiona. Going forward, federal, state, and local authorities need to review emergency preparedness plans, making the protection of life the utmost priority, and ensuring that any economic disparities in evacuation plans are considered. Additionally, undocumented persons should not fear immigration enforcement repercussions when seeking shelter. In the United States, no person should be left behind because they did not have the means to seek protection. 

 

Local communities and authorities will play a leading role in reconstruction efforts, with the support of state and federal agencies. We must start rebuilding through an environmental justice lens. 

 

Specifically, we are calling for a concrete set of actions that include: 

  • Ensuring that vulnerable groups, including migrants and undocumented people, can access FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) for post-hurricane relief, or a state-level program that offers the same type of financial assistance.
  • Ensuring that there is no immigration enforcement in shelters, temporary housing, service centers, or any public space where humanitarian aid and assistance is being delivered.
  • Ensuring temporary and long-term housing options for displaced families, that enables them a safe and dignified future, considering specific needs of children, the elderly and differently abled persons. Housing options must be fair and affordable. 
  • Ensuring that building reconstruction not only accounts for stronger building codes, but also promotes the health and well-being of the planet and communities through renewable energy sourcing and an emphasis on energy democracy. 
  • Ensuring that workers, especially undocumented and migrant workers assisting in reconstruction and recovery efforts, are paid and protected from physical and fraudulent harm while at work. 
  • Ensuring recovery is a process where communities have a voice; additionally, ensuring that structural inequalities will no longer be part of new infrastructure. 

 

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Alianza Americas is the premier transnational advocacy network of Latin American migrant-led organizations working in the United States, across the Americas, and globally to create an inclusive, equitable and sustainable way of life for communities across North, Central and South America. Alianza’s digital organizing powerhouse is Presente.org.

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