The Undocumented Americans

by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

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How does Karla Cornejo Villavicencio characterize the Flint water crisis in The Undocumented Americans?

In The Undocumented Americans, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio characterizes the Flint water crisis as a case in which the government knowingly poisoned the undocumented immigrant community by neglecting the water supply infrastructure.

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In The Undocumented Americans, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio points out the ways in which the Flint water crisis disproportionately affected undocumented immigrants from Latin America. For most of its history, Flint was a relatively prosperous community, with most residents working for General Motors or a business supporting the company and its workers. When General Motors left, most people who could afford to do so followed. This left a vast number of undocumented immigrants.

These immigrants tended to be suspicious of official sources of information and often failed to learn about the dangers of the Flint water supply until contacted by relatives in Latin America, who had seen the matter discussed on international news programs. Even when they knew that the tap water was unsafe to drink, their undocumented status prevented them from obtaining government assistance.

Villavicencio concludes that the government was aware of the way in which the impure drinking water in Flint affected the undocumented immigrant community and cynically permitted these people to be poisoned by neglecting the infrastructure of the city. Many people have been forced by poverty into a situation in which their only alternative to the consumption of unsafe drinking water is extreme thirst and dehydration. Denial of one of the most basic resources necessary for life is, the author remarks, nothing less than genocide.

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