How Michigan worker centers and churches are making sure help reaches Flint’s immigrant communities

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

You can support the efforts of these volunteers by donating here

Everyone in Michigan and across the country was stunned to learn about the water crisis in Flint, caused by irresponsible penny-pinching by the state’s governor and his unelected city-manager.

Michiganders know that this isn’t the first time that the people of Flint have been the victims of a broken economy and inept government management. But the poisoning of the city’s water, the subsequent cover-up by the governor takes that suffering to a new low.

To make matters worse, state and federal assistance has failed to reach too many Flint families, compounding the crisis.

Volunteer leaders with The Micah Center, a Grand Rapids worker center with a strong tradition of interfaith values and affiliated with Interfaith Worker Justice, has seen the inadequacy of the government response firsthand. 

In January, The Micah Center teamed up with Our Lady of Guadalupe church, the Workers Center of Western Michigan and others to travel to Flint to offer material support and bear witness to the crisis. What the volunteer team saw was disheartening at best.

They saw the State and National Guard demanding identification in exchange for fresh water.

They saw law enforcement going door-to-door in immigrant communities, offering water and filters with a knock on the door and the shout of “Police!,” perhaps unaware how similar that sounds to the recent Immigration and Custom Enforcement raids that have been terrorizing undocumented people across the nation in recent months.

They saw Flint residents who had not yet been educated about the poisonous water or how to get medical attention after exposure to the water.

The volunteers from The Micah Center and their partners have organized their own relief to pick up where the state and federal response had fallen short.

They called on elected officials representing Flint to change the identification-for-water policy. Within a week, water distribution centers were no longer requiring an ID card.

They are canvassing immigrant communities led by native Spanish-speakers to counsel families about how to get help and assure them that law enforcement providing water and filters would not detain or deport anybody.

They are printing multi-lingual literature for residents to learn how to get medical attention if they are exposed to the lead-filled water.

Just two hours away from Flint by car, worker centers like The Micah Center and their volunteer partners are well-positioned to help during crises like the water poisoning in Flint.

But they could use all the support they can get. It costs money to organize water drives, to print educational literature, and to pay for gas to make the trip to Flint.

You can support the efforts of these volunteers by donating here.

100% of donations go directly to helping Flint and will be administered locally by The Micah Center.

Interfaith Worker Justice applauds The Micah Center, the Workers Center of West Michigan, Our Lady of Guadalupe church and all those who have answered the call to action to help their neighbors in Flint during this time of crisis.