NUEVA YORK (AP) — A Josías, el hijo de dos años de Miguel Alarcón Morales, se le agravó un asma porque la familia sigue viviendo en el segundo piso de unan vivienda que se inundó con el paso del feroz huracán Sandy. La casa está llena de moho y huele a humedad, la pintura se desprende de las paredes, explicó el padre.

"No es seguro vivir allí, respirando todo eso, pero no tenemos donde ir", dijo el inmigrante mexicano de 29 años, quien vive en la zona de South Beach, en Staten Island, frente a Manhattan, y perdió su trabajo en un heladería de Nueva Jersey que cerró sus puertas tras el paso del huracán. La familia, con dos hijos más, sólo se calienta con un aparato de calefacción eléctrica.

A Morales le costó mucho decidirse a pedir ayuda a las autoridades federales porque está en el país ilegalmente.

"Tenía miedo de pedir ayuda al gobierno", confesó. "Por el hecho de ser indocumentado, uno piensa que va a haber repercusiones".

El azote de la supertormenta ha dejado en una situación de vulnerabilidad a miles inmigrantes mexicanos sin papeles que viven en la isla cercana a Manhattan y que debido a falta de información y miedo por su condición migratoria tardan más en rehacer sus vidas que los ciudadanos estadounidenses afectados por el mismo desastre natural.

LEE LOS COMENTARIOS A ESTA NOTA Y AGREGA EL TUYO


Después de pasar días en casas de amigos o familiares, muchos están regresando a los sótanos y casas que alquilaban antes de la tormenta, a pesar de que éstas siguen siendo inhabitables y están llenas de moho. Otros no pueden pedir ayuda al gobierno porque no están autorizados a vivir en Estados Unidos y no tienen hijos nacidos en el país. Hay quienes pueden pedir ayuda a la Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA) porque sí tienen hijos inscritos en el Seguro Social, pero no lo hacen por miedo a ser deportados.


"Si no tienes documentos y estás en tu casa y ves a la guardia nacional, gente en uniforme militar, para arriba y para abajo, obviamente, va a haber temor", dijo Gonzalo Mercado, director ejecutivo de Centro del Inmigrante, quien lleva trabajando sin un día de descanso desde que el huracán azotó la zona el domingo 28 y el lunes 29 de octubre.


"El temor es por la falta de información. Lo más importante es que los inmigrantes se informen, para ver a qué ayuda y recursos se puede acceder", agregó el activista.


Aproximadamente 18.684 mexicanos y personas de origen mexicano vivían en Staten Island en 2010, según las cifras del censo, pero activistas en la zona calculan que la cifra podría llegar a 20.000 en la actualidad. En la ciudad de Nueva York el consulado mexicano ha indicado que residen aproximadamente medio millón de mexicanos. Muchos se instalan en sótanos y casas que alquilan en las zonas de Port Richmond, Midland y South Beach, en Staten Island, duramente azotadas por el huracán.


La inquietud y la frustración dominaban la conversación de un grupo de mexicanas en el patio de cemento de un colegio público de Staten Island, un condado de la ciudad de Nueva York.


Mientras algunas hablaban, otras escuchaban y se limpiaban las lágrimas con la manga de la chaqueta, aunque sin perder de vista a sus hijos pequeños, que correteaban por el patio alegres a mediados de noviembre. Las mujeres, bajitas y de pelo negro, hablaban sobre refugios para gente sin techo y la posibilidad de pedir ayuda económica a las autoridades estadounidenses y mexicanas.


"Yo limpiaba casas pero se inundaron o están destrozadas...Llevo días sin trabajar", se lamentaba Lucina Muñoz, una inmigrante sin papeles de 29 años que no abandonó su hogar hasta que el agua del huracán Sandy le llegó por las rodillas.


"Llevamos una semana viviendo sin agua, luz ni calefacción. La casa está muy fría", comentó Eila Olmedo, otra inmigrante de Oaxaca, de 32 años, que después describió como ella y sus hijos se cubrían con varias mantas para poder dormir.


El consulado mexicano tiene en su lista a más de 735 personas de Nueva York y Nueva Jersey que piden ayuda económica del gobierno de México, el cual que ha destinado hasta ahora aproximadamente 180.000 dólares para damnificados. Hasta el martes por la tarde, se habían repartido 66 cheques a esta comunidad, por un valor total de 110.000 dólares. También existe un fondo aparte de recaudación, manejado por el Instituto Cultural Mexicano en Nueva York, al cual el ex presidente Ernesto Zedillo aportó 5.000 dólares.


Decenas de mexicanos esperaban su turno en las pequeñas oficinas del Centro del Inmigrante el lunes para rellenar documentos con sus datos e inscribirse en las listas de FEMA o el gobierno mexicano. Con bebés en brazos, o sentados con los brazos cruzados, hablaban bajito entre ellos, con rostros que expresaban cansancio.


Funcionarios del gobierno mexicano se han dedicado las últimas semanas a visitar refugios para víctimas de Sandy, en busca de inmigrantes que no tienen dónde ir, para informarles de agencias que ofrecen alimentos y vías para pedir ayuda económica, entre otras cosas.


También se han dedicado a llamar puerta tras puerta y se encuentran con algunos inmigrantes que responden con temor, dijeron.


"Hubo una señora que no me abrió la puerta y habló conmigo desde dentro de la casa", explicó Dante Gómez, cónsul para asuntos comunitarios. "Su esposo le había dicho antes de irse a buscar trabajo que no le abriera la puerta a nadie".


Rumores de que agentes de Servicios de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas aprovecharían el desastre para arrestar a inmigrantes sin papeles que quedaran en la calle en Staten Island, sin embargo, resultaron infundados, según activistas. Luis Martínez, portavoz de la agencia migratoria, dijo a The Associated Press que los agentes han llevado a cabo operaciones "limitadas".


"Retomaremos la actividad normal, poniendo énfasis en quienes cometan delitos, en un futuro cercano", señaló el vocero.


El temor, no obstante, está allí y hace que más inmigrantes acudan al Centro del Inmigrante que a FEMA, explicó Mercado, del Centro del Inmigrante. Los inmigrantes tampoco acuden a los llamados Restoration Centers que la ciudad de Nueva York ha abierto en las zonas más afectadas por el huracán. Allí se informa sobre recursos disponibles y se puede solicitar ayuda a FEMA.


Mercado dijo que el movimiento Occupy Sandy -derivado de Occupy Wall Street - está planeando abrir un fondo para ayudar económicamente a personas que no cumplen los requisitos para solicitar ayuda federal. Portavoces de Occupy Sandy no respondieron una solicitud de confirmación por parte de Associated Press.


Con el azote de la tormenta, muchos inmigrantes perdieron los sueldos que cobran en efectivo porque no pudieron trabajar durante días. No tienen acceso a crédito y no recuperarán ese dinero, mientras que ciudadanos estadounidenses que perdieron su trabajo debido al huracán pueden solicitar ayuda federal que les recompense a través de un programa especial.


Emilio Héctor Gloria Fuentes, un inmigrante de 49 años de Morelos, dice que él y algunos familiares se están alojando en la casa de un sacerdote porque el sótano donde vivían en Staten Island no está habitable. Fuentes, quien trabaja en una pizzería, no puede recibir ayuda de FEMA por su status migratorio.


"Tenía ahorros en efectivo en el sótano. Lo perdí todo", comentó. "Desastres como este son mucho peores para los indocumentados que para los ciudadanos de Estados Unidos o las personas que tienen algún dinero".


Felipe García dejó de cobrar los 300 dólares semanales que percibía trabajando en un "deli" o tienda de comestibles en Staten Island. Su familia paga un alquiler de 1.250 dólares mensuales por una casa en la zona de Midland Beach, explicó su esposa María Lucero, aunque sus hijos ayudan con el pago.


Lucero, al igual que muchos otros inmigrantes, tiene la suerte de que ella y su familia viven en la casa de unos amigos, pero saben que eso no puede alargarse mucho tiempo.


"No me siento tranquila sin tener mi casa", dijo la mexicana, mientras observaba con pena su salón, del que trabajadores de la construcción arrancaron recientemente parte de las paredes que quedaron arruinadas por la inundación. Colgado de su puerta, un cartel municipal avisaba de "Uso restringido: Se necesita inspección de gas y electricidad". En su cocina, bolsas de alimentos recogidas en centros de ayuda se acumulaban sobre la mesa y fotografías y dibujos de sus hijas y su nieto colgaban aun de las paredes.


Tan sólo un mexicano murió debido al huracán, mientras que otro pereció durante tareas de limpieza y un tercero debido a un infarto el día de la tormenta, señaló el consulado.


El único factor positivo que ha dejado el huracán Sandy para inmigrantes sin papeles podrían ser las labores de reconstrucción de casas que beneficiarán laboralmente a jornaleros. El Centro del Inmigrante está intentando abrir un centro de contratación de jornaleros en sus oficinas, en Castleton Avenue, que facilite la ubicación de los trabajadores por empresas.


El jornalero mexicano Eberto Silva dijo que el propietario de su vivienda lo contrató para que trabaje en la limpieza y demolición de otra propiedad suya dañada por Sandy en Coney Island, pagándole 14 dólares la hora.


"Va a haber más trabajo para gente como yo", manifestó. "Eso tal vez se empiece a ver en las próximas semanas".


"Eso es que lo realmente se necesita", dijo Mercado. "Esperamos que ahora, después de Sandy, esta sea la oportunidad para hacerlo".


_________________________________


Claudia Torrens está en Twitter como http:www.twitter.com/ClaudiaTorrens


Para ayudar a mexicanos que no pueden recibir ayuda del gobierno federal estadounidense se puede donar dinero a la siguiente cuenta, manejada por el Instituto Cultural Mexicano: JPMorgan Chase Bank. Número de cuenta 152012079, con el número de guía 021000021

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