Information on Help for Immigrant Victims of Superstorm Sandy


Here is some additional info on FEMA’s help for immigrants in the wake of Superstorm Sandy:

Qualified Aliens who may be eligible for FEMA monetary disaster assistance include Green Card holders – individuals with U.S. government permission to live and work in the country permanently.
Others in the Qualified Alien category include those who have legal U.S. resident status because of:

Refugee status;
Parole (admission into the United States for humanitarian purposes) for at least one year;
Withholding of deportation;
Immigration from Cuba or Haiti; and
Severe forms of human trafficking, including persons with “T” and “U” visas.

Applicants should consult an immigration expert concerning whether or not their immigration status falls within the Qualified Alien category.
FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program is available to disaster-stricken U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals and Qualified Aliens in counties with a federal disaster declaration. Federal disaster assistance for individuals and families can include money for rental assistance, essential home repairs for owners, personal property loss and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance.
Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for FEMA cash assistance or Disaster Unemployment Assistance.
However, in households with varying citizenship status, only one member needs to be eligible to qualify that home for FEMA aid.
An undocumented parent or guardian may apply for monetary aid on behalf of a minor child who is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or Qualified Alien. Although the adult will be expected to sign a Declaration and Release (FEMA Form 009-0-3) in the child’s name, no information will be gathered on the person signing for the child.
All individuals, regardless of citizenship status, affected by a major disaster may be eligible for other non-monetary, in-kind emergency disaster relief programs. These include search and rescue, medical care, shelter, food and water as well as Disaster Legal Services and Crisis Counseling.
People who don’t qualify for monetary assistance may still call the FEMA registration line for referrals to voluntary agencies.
Individuals can register for help online at or via smartphone or tablet at They may also call 800-621-3362. The TTY number is 800-462-7585. People who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services can call 800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.
For more information on New York’s disaster recovery, visit,, and

Many immigrants assume that they cannot receive help from FEMA in the wake of Superstorm Sandy—or that applying for assistance may jeopardize their immigration status. FEMA explains in United Way’s “Disaster Assistance Resource Guide”:

FEMA Assistance
FEMA provides funding and assistance to local residents (renters and homeowners) and businesses who have sustained loss of or damage to property that is not covered by insurance. Contact your insurance company first: If you are NOT covered for the storm damage by your insurance company, you may be eligible for federal aid. You will need to obtain a letter from your insurance company saying you are not covered for damage from the storm. Applicants can feel confident that the information they provide is used only to access disaster recovery assistance, according to the head of disaster recovery operations in New York for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The aid is available to citizens, non-citizen nationals, and qualified aliens. Qualified aliens include those with legal permanent residence (shown by green cards). Their status will not be jeopardized by requesting disaster assistance.
A minor child who is a citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien can have a parent or guardian who is not eligible apply for assistance on the child’s behalf. No information will be gathered on the adult’s status.
The status of qualified alien includes:
legal permanent residents (those with green cards),
those with refugee or asylum status,
those whose deportation has been withheld,
those on parole into the U.S. for at least one year for humanitarian purposes,
those with conditional entry,
those who are Cuban-Haitian entrants,
and those with petitions for relief based on battery or extreme cruelty by a family member.
The application for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires applicants to certify that they are either citizens, non-citizen nationals or qualified aliens. FEMA conducts random audits of applications to verify U.S. citizenship and qualified alien documentation issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. However, assistance can be given as long as someone in the household is entitled to it, and no information will be gathered regarding the status of others in the household.

FEMA Assistance for Immigrant Families
FEMA helps the household, therefore if anyone in the household qualifies (a child born on the US, or a parent with a green card), then the family would qualify for help.

For further information about FEMA assistance, visit

For other services, and the updated version of United Way’s “Disaster Assistance Resource Guide,” visit

—available in English & Spanish
If you work with children, parents, grandparents, other relatives, or will be volunteering in the hurricane recovery efforts, the attached coloring book, which was written by Mike Conner, PsyD, in the 1990’s, is a wonderful tool for helping children who have been impacted by the storm to understand their feelings and how to cope with them. Dr. Connor has granted permission for this to be Xeroxed and widely distributed, as long as it is not used for commercial purposes. There is an English, as well as a Spanish, edition, along with a parents’ guide.
Spanish(translated courtesy of the Childrens’ Project Team of Project Recovery, Iowa Division of Mental Health and Disability Services):

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.