For immigrants on Maui who have faced the loss of their homes and belongings due to wildfires, the absence of vital documents adds to their difficulties in rebuilding. These challenges are particularly pronounced in Latino communities where fear of authorities hampers seeking aid to recover.
Many assistance programs necessitate identification, but non-U.S. citizens often lack the ability to replace their documents as U.S. citizens do. Maui Economic Opportunity is collaborating with various consulates to help affected nationals obtain emergency replacements for passports and birth certificates. The Mexican consulate has already assisted around 200 people on Maui.
However, many more individuals require aid. Veronica Mendoza Jachowski of Roots Reborn Lahaina, a group of immigration lawyers and community organizers, highlighted the necessity to locate unaccounted immigrants within Maui’s community. Mendoza emphasizes that many immigrants are wary of applying for aid due to misconceptions about potential consequences.
To access FEMA disaster assistance, U.S. citizenship or qualified non-citizen status with a Social Security number is required, leaving undocumented immigrants ineligible. Despite available aid, a sense of mistrust towards authorities hampers immigrants from applying, exacerbated by past policies.
Efforts to assist affected immigrants continue, but many remain hesitant to come forward for aid. This is especially true for those avoiding shelters, staying with friends, or residing with family members, indicating the complex challenges faced in the aftermath of the wildfires.