Hiding In Plain Sight: New York’s Undocumented Immigrants and Hurricane Sandy

11/15/2012 11:20 AM |


Coney Island—which is heavily populated by undocumented immigrants—was decimated. Homes were flooded and people’s things were washed away. Interestingly, as devastating as that would be for most people, for many immigrants, it’s not the end of the world. After all, most immigrants come here with just a few dollars in their pockets and somehow find a way to make it work. The mentality of immigrants today is the same as it was when being an immigrant was not a crime: We work hard for the best future possible; you can sleep when you’re dead. With that said, it is still a major setback and most of the undocumented immigrants are too afraid to say anything or to ask for help for the same reason that they have not tried achieving legal status. They fear getting caught and deported.

I grew up in Coney Island and lived there for five years. I saw the neighborhood last week and it was heartbreaking to see how badly it was hit. I took itpersonally. This neighborhood and the people in it shaped who I am today. I found out recently that the building I used to live in was flooded. And I wondered how immigrants living there now could handle a situation like this or how my mother would have handled a situation like this.

You might be wondering why landlords would even rent to undocumented immigrants to begin with. Well, the truth is, landlords love undocumented immigrants. We pay cash and we never complain—not about a leak, not about peeling paint or no heat and, more than likely, we wouldn’t even complain about a hurricane. I’m not saying all landlords are scumbags—some of them have to be decent—but a lot of them, in certain parts of the city, exploit immigrants because they know that their undocumented tenants will never dare hold them responsible for anything.

3 Comment

  • How many Americans actually want to wash dishes, clean toilets, and do other menial jobs for 7 dollars an hour? We’ll, I washed dishes for minimum wage salary ($1 an hour) for a summer job. That was a long time ago when this was a great country that protected its borders, had affordable housing, affordable college educations, and lots of jobs. Mainly because there were about 150 million people, rather than over 300 million.

  • good article

  • Erik, immigrants didn’t suddenly pop up out of nowhere in the last few decades. They were always here; the difference is, what started this country is now a crime. And mainly, you’re (not you, but the people behind the bureaucratic crap) denying lots of hardworking people the chance to prove themselves. I’m pretty sure if one of them became a scientist and found the cure for cancer and selflessly gave it out without any demands, you would have no problem with that – and let me tell you, you’re not going to see an American (someone who was born here and “has no immigrant ancestors” – I put that in quotation marks because that is pretty much impossible, as this country was built on immigration) come up with the cure for cancer. If and when it’ll happen, it’ll be by someone who had to earn their place in this society. And really, no one is asking for amnesty. People today, the ones that had the * privilege* to grow up here legally are mostly spoiled. Maybe one or two out of ten of those kids will take on dish-washing jobs, or cleaning toilets; but for the most part, they won’t – and kids that work legally would certainly not do it for a dollar an hour (that had to be a REALLY long time ago, proving my point that the current generation just doesn’t have it in themselves to work hard, because their parents DID work hard and the parents don’t want their children to do the same).
    Regardless, my whole point is, there were always a lot of immigrants, and they all would love to contribute to this society by paying taxes (think about all the money it would bring in to have those immigrants pay taxes!) and going to jury duty and doing all the jobs that no one else wants to. You can’t ban immigration, but you can control it.