"You know what? This is terrible. I'm going to do something about it."
It's not an uncommon feeling for people learning about what's happening in Flint, Michigan, these days. It was Aida Cuadrado's reaction last week. She's the director of Action of Greater Lansing, a network of churches that do faith-based community organizing.
Over the weekend, they took a large truck plus three SUVs full of bottled water to a member church in Flint, specifically to reach some 1,000 undocumented immigrants who have been affected by the high levels of lead in the city's water.
Courtesy of Aida Cuadrado
The Environmental Protection Agency is recommending that Flint residents only use bottled water or water run through special filters for drinking or cooking and physicians have expressed concerns about bathing small children and infants in the city's water. The city declared an emergency more than a month ago, though high levels of lead in the water were detected much earlier.
Last week, Cuadrado began to hear about undocumented immigrants who were still not getting bottled water and trying to boil their tap water — which does not actually remove lead. Part of the problem was that the resource centers were requiring driver's licenses or state identification cards before providing water. Undocumented immigrants in Michigan cannot get state-issued IDs. Undocumented immigrants have also been hesitant to open their doors to National Guard members delivering supplies door-to-door — for fear of deportation.
“I went to ask for water from the fire station, and they asked for my social security number, so I left,” Estella Arias, who is undocumented, told Fusion.
Michigan's embattled governor sent out a press release Friday that identification is not necessary to get water and supplies from the five fire stations that are designated water resource sites. But Cuadrado says that as late as Sunday, IDs were still being requested.
That made the work of the congregations and neighbors to reach these families all the more important. The truck, she says, was at its maximum weight, filled with donated water and some supplies, such as baby wipes.
"It felt like we were doing God's work on the way down there. That's what we're supposed to do as Americans. We show up."
High levels of lead intake can have irreversible effects. It affects the brain and nervous system and is especially dangerous for children and and unborn children.
"I'm angry and I'm hoping that someone will be held accountable for what's happened," says Cuadrado. "It's terrible, there's no other word for it."
Courtesy of Aida Cuadrado