As the United States, and in particular the Gulf Coast states, prepare for Hurricane season in just two months, post-mortems continue on what was and wasn’t done last year.
Katrina and Rita have become synonymous with catastrophes (I almost wrote catastrophic disasters, but that seemed redundant).
One of the main concerns as we approach hurricane season is the lack of communication in Spanish. Being bilingual, I often take for granted that everyone understands English. However, that is not the case. And in these instances, where every minute counts, we have to do better.
Latinos hope next warning comes in Spanish
— reported by The Sun Herald
“The disaster response – both public and private – was a disaster for Latinos and other communities of color,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, the interest group that released the 23-page report Feb. 28.
The group faulted FEMA for having no plan to disseminate emergency information in any language but English. It also blasted FEMA personnel for making the wrong assumption that many of the Latino storm victims they encountered were illegal immigrants and thus ineligible for federal assistance.
That failing was compounded by the wrong assumption on the part of many legal Latino immigrants that if they accepted disaster relief, they would fall afoul of laws prohibiting them from becoming “public charges,” or immigrants deemed likely to become dependent on government welfare.
The report also criticized officials for not suspending immigration enforcement in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. As evidence of the fear that resulted, the report cited the experience of Latino Memphis, a Tennessee community group that went to the area to help storm victims.
In response, the organization launched its a first-ever Spanish-language Web site – www.cruzrojaamericana.org. The Red Cross says that in the first couple of weeks after it was launched Aug. 15, more than 60,000 visitors downloaded hurricane-preparation information from the site.
The Red Cross is also actively recruiting Latino volunteers and board members.