Social service agencies are required by law to provide disaster-related assistance without asking for information or documents
East County News Service
December 8, 2017 (San Diego) -- As wildfires rage in Southern California this week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego and Imperial Counties is on alert to protect the rights of fire victims in this region.
The San Diego ACLU is working with community partners to disseminate information about individuals’ right to receive emergency services and safe access out of danger areas without regard to immigration status and without the requirement to present identification. The organization is also providing the means for people to report violations of state and local laws protecting their safety.
The October 2007 wildfires torched huge swaths of San Diego County. Many of the county’s most vulnerable residents affected by the devastating wildfires were denied emergency services in their time of greatest need. In some cases, aid workers asked evacuees for proof of identity to enter emergency shelters, access emergency food and water, and speak to relief workers. Together with Justice Overcoming Boundaries, and the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium the ACLU released a report (aquí en español) detailing these problems.
In 2008, the ACLU worked with the American Red Cross of San Diego & Imperial Counties and other allies to help pass a bill requiring public employees to provide evacuees with disaster-related assistance without asking for information or documents not strictly necessary to determine eligibility for services. In addition, ACLU and Red Cross created related materials to educate the public about their rights:
- Know Your Rights During a Disaster (English)
- Cuando Ocurre un Desastre: Conoce tus Derechos (Español)
- Know Your Rights During a Disaster (Arabic)
- Know Your Rights (comic strip – English; tira cómica; comic in Vietnamese)
People who hear of or witness anyone being denied disaster-related assistance, or are themselves denied assistance during this fire emergency are asked to contact the San Diego ACLU at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 619-232-2121.