The Reason People in Flint Are Being Denied Emergency Fresh Water

January 26th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

In the midst of a massive outpouring of support for Flint, Michigan residents in need of clean water, one group said they were initially barred from seeking out the free bottled water and filters being handed out there.

Undocumented immigrants, which reportedly number about 1,000 in Flint, ran into a barrier when they were asked to present identification cards at some state-run pick up stations last week. Others, according to news reports, say they were turned away, and found out about the problems in the lead-laden water only recently because of language barriers. The contamination there has been a months-long ordeal.

Related: US Cities Are Underreporting Heavy Metals in Their Water Supply

State officials have since said that they addressed that barrier. Following a number of news reports last week about the struggles of undocumented people obtaining safe drinking water, officials said that there would be no ID requirements at any of the five resource sites across Flint, which stock free bottled water, filters, water replacement cartridges, and testing kits. Still, some residents said they fear repercussions from state officials such as arrest or even deportation, and concern has lingered even after the ID requirement was lifted. 

Those fears might not be so abstract after all: On the same day the state reassured residents that no ID was required at distribution stations, activists posted videos apparently showing National Guardsmen refusing to hand out water to undocumented people.

Thanks Desiree Duell! We are still being abused by the state #FlintWaterCrisis

Posted by Nayyirah Shariff on Friday, January 22, 2016

In the comments section, activists said that officials only checked a Flint address for people with identification — which some pointed out could mean an individual does not even need to reside in the city.

Civil rights groups said that even if ID requirements were lifted, there is still concern — not just about going to pick-up stations, but about the National Guard members going door-to-door handing out water.

"Once word of mouth ripples through the community that you have to have ID, it's too late," Susan Reed, managing attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, told Fusion.

When asked by ATTN: what, if anything, was being done to address these lingering fears, officials forwarded last week's press release detailing the no-ID requirement.

Related: Sebring, Ohio, Could be the Next Flint, Michigan