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Who will rebuild Houston?

Vox points out what should be obvious.

Unauthorized immigrants were crucial to rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And they are likely to be desperately needed as Texas rebuilds to clean streets, demolish buildings, and reconstruct homes and offices.

But it’s a hostile time to be undocumented in Texas. Even beyond the Trump administration’s harsh rhetoric and actions on immigration, Texas leaders are engaged in a crackdown on unauthorized immigrants, passing a slew of laws to make it harder for them to live and work in the state. In such an environment, these laborers might not stick around for the work that will be needed.

“This could have a chilling effect on the community,” said Laurel Fletcher, a law professor at the University of California Berkeley who studied the working conditions of laborers in New Orleans after Katrina. “A lot depends on what the climate will be like for Latinx and undocumented residents in the greater Houston area.”


The US unemployment rate, at 4.4 percent, is at its lowest level since the Great Recession started, and construction companies across the country have been struggling to find workers. In August, about 77 percent of US builders reported a shortage of framing crews and 61 percent faced a shortage of drywall installation workers, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

If the story of rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is any indication, undocumented immigrants will be a crucial part of Houston’s recovery.

That assumes a federal government and a state government that aren’t hell-bent on deporting them. If we’re lucky, we might get a bit of benign neglect and some court orders holding back enforcement of SB4. If not, well, I hope no one is in any rush to get their homes repaired.

Having said all that. we should heed what Stace says:

While I appreciate Lisa Falkenberg’s article about the undocumented rebuilding Houston, I’m still irked by the assumption by others that the only reason we need them (at this time) is for cheap, uninsured labor without worker protections. Especially when builders and contractors are the ones crying the loudest as they stand to make the most during the rebuild with this source of cheap labor.

It goes back to why we need more than just a DREAM Act. We need the parents of DREAMers who make up this exploited labor force, too. They must be protected. They must be paid what they’re worth. They must be insured and have worker protections from bosses who will exploit them during these times. Because, suddenly, it seems they’re not taking someone else’s job; they are filling open jobs, if we let them.

Getting the Houston area – and now Florida – rebuilt is a big priority, but there are larger issues that need to be addressed as well. Chris Tomlinson, Stan Marek, and Lisa Falkenberg have more.

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  1. BillK says:

    Charles, With regards to rebuilding Houston, there have been several articles in the Chronicle where John Sharp has mentioned that instead of putting people in FEMA trailers there will be an initiative where he will send contractors out to repair homes just enough to make them livable, so that people can move back quickly. Have you heard anything about this?

  2. neither here nor there says:

    What is livable for one person is a luxury for many, more poor people than rich people in this country.

    As to the question that BillK asks it is my understanding they will be asking FEMA to do that, considering that it will take 3 weeks for the person who is to appraise damage for FEMA to get to a person who called the night they flooded, I don’t expect anything fast to happen.

    I would like to know who those $76 million dollar recipients of FEMA are located, as I think it is a bunch of bull.

  3. BillK says:

    We were flooded out of our house and are staying with very good fiends, so I’m interested in not imposing on their kindness for too much longer. Livable for me would be a house that no longer is a hazard with a bit of new drywall in at least one bedroom and a working bathroom.

  4. neither here nor there says:

    My house flooded for the first time. When I removed the drywall I did not remove both sides, I chose to keep one side on some walls to allow for some privacy (Used plenty of bleach and mold preventer). On the ones where both sides were removed I decided to go with the Japanese concept, but instead of paper, heavy cloth, painter’s drop cloth works very well.

    I was working the second day removing objects and just throwing them out the door as it was raining very heavily that day. In fact we had water rush in twice once on Sunday and again on Monday night.

    I have both bathroom working. I had the help of family and friends so we were able to move in within a week. Our civic club opened the club for families in the neighborhood to have a place to stay, it was not an official shelter but from what I have read we did better than some of those that were. We have many great people in our neighborhood, my neighbor Phillip spent Sunday rescuing people that had been trapped by the water in the neighborhood, he rescued 10 people and then spent the next two days traveling to Kingwood to assist with rescues there. Several others would help provide food for the people in the civic club. One of the officers of the Board is helping distribute Red Cross supplies by opening the Civic Club from 6 to 8 P.M.

    Now waiting for FEMA claims’ adjuster to determine how to tackle the cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms. I have flood insurance that I have been paying for close to 40 years with never having made a claim before. Three weeks is how long it will have taken for him to pay us a visit.

    The City, it seems must be overwhelmed as it does not seem to have a plan as to how to tackle the problem. At least they don’t in this part of the woods.