Losing It All: Natural Disasters and America’s Immigrant Worker

Martin Hernández’s family enjoyed making Nopales, a Mexican dish, using the stand of cactus a family member brought from Mexico to the plot of land bordering tobacco fields where they have lived in North Carolina since the 1980s. Photo: Jesse Pratt Lopez/100 Days in Appalachia

We’re in the midst of the 2019 hurricane season, and people in the Bahamas are still recovering from Hurricane Dorian, which is considered the country’s worst natural disaster to date. In 2018, Hurricane Florence hit the coast of North Carolina, which left 51 people dead and caused $24 billion in damage in the state. 

Disaster relief programs provide assistance to many, but in the U.S. some people are not eligible for any of that help. Undocumented migrant workers who harvest crops and perform other temporary jobs can lose everything when disaster hits.

This episode of Us and Them was based on 100 Days in Appalachia’s series Unseen. Published in July, the series takes a deep dive into the experiences of migrant workers in North Carolina following Hurricane Florence and potential solutions that could prevent the same problems in the future.

This piece was originally published by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

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