Printed on: September 28, 2013

Colo. migrants face uncertainty after flooding


EVANS, Colo. (AP) -- Immigrants living in the U.S. illegally returned to their mobile home parks in flood-ravaged Colorado to find that there was little left to salvage -- not the water-damaged cars, not the old family pictures and not the sheds carried away by the rushing waters.

The destruction, however, was only the beginning of what's been a nightmarish two weeks. They didn't have flood insurance. And because they are not citizens or legal residents -- and don't have family members who are -- they won't get the federal government's help.

"They say that faith and hope die last," said Juan Partida, 40, a dairy worker who along with his wife Mari, who is pregnant, do not qualify for federal emergency aid because they are in the country illegally. "We need to have faith and hope that we'll get help."

How quickly they can rebuild their lives, relying largely on local government and nonprofit organizations, will have long-term ramifications on the Weld County industries that depend on their labor, from meatpacking plants and farms to construction and hotels.

"They're out of their homes, and a lot of them have lost their vehicles in this, they're impacted. So the economy is going to be impacted," said Lyle Achziger, mayor of Evans, a city on the northern plains whose population of 19,500 is 43 percent Latino.

Achziger said officials responding to the disaster have been learning about the immigrants' importance to the region's economy. He said the city hopes to get people help by getting them to register with the city, county and other volunteer aid organizations.

"We have told them that immigration status is not our focus. And I will repeat that again, that is not our focus. Our focus is getting people out of the cold, getting a roof over their head and getting them a warm meal," he said.