Conflict & Justice

One of Houston's most vulnerable communities faces the floods

RTX3DREP.jpg

An elderly woman in a wheelchair is rescued from the flood waters of tropical storm Harvey in east Houston, Texas.

Credit:

Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Imagine you're in an electric wheelchair and flood water starts seeping through the doors and windows of your mobile home. 

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Then imagine you're also an immigrant with limited English and no documentation. 

That population — immigrants who require the use of wheelchairs — is at great risk in Houston these days. But in the aftermath of Harvey, Houston's Living Hope Wheelchair Association is reaching out to those disabled immigrants in need. 

"It has been repeated a lot that immigrants that come to this country have access to all kinds of social services and welfare programs and that is a blatant lie," says the group's director, Pancho Argüelles. "Even for documented immigrants, access to many programs is limited."

Argüelles says he's "blown away" by the calm disabled immigrants have shown during Harvey. He describes the courage of an immigrant in a wheelchair named Armando and his caretaker, Mary. They managed to blow up an inflatable children's pool and float Armando to safety when water began filling their trailer. 

"I don't think immigrant communities are like, 'Oh, life shouldn't be like this. My comfort is being challenged," Argüelles notes. "It was the middle of the night and Armando cannot swim." 

Listen to more of Pancho Argüelles' experience post-Hurricane Harvey above.