Farmworkers Sue FEMA Over Disaster Aid

Denise Kalette, AP, Feb. 14, 2006

MIAMI—A coalition of Florida farmworkers has sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency, alleging the government refused to help undocumented farmworkers displaced by hurricanes with housing because of their immigration status.

Many farmworkers who were denied federal help after their homes was destroyed were forced to live in cars and other dangerous situations, while trailers intended for emergency housing went unused, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

FEMA spokeswoman Debbie Wing on Monday declined to comment on the case.

The workers were denied short-term disaster housing during the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, including relocation to mobile homes or hotels, because they did not meet the government’s definition of “qualified alien,” the lawsuit said.

The Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations and the Farmworker Association of Florida said in the suit that federal law exempts short-term non-cash emergency disaster relief from restrictions based on immigration status.

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