Proof Of Citizenship Up In Flames After California Wildfires "The little that we had is gone": Immigration status can compound the loss families face after devastating wildfires.
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Proof Of Citizenship Up In Flames After California Wildfires

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Proof Of Citizenship Up In Flames After California Wildfires

Proof Of Citizenship Up In Flames After California Wildfires

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

California's recent wildfires burned hundreds of homes. Residents are struggling to rebuild their lives. For undocumented workers, many of whom don't have insurance or savings, it's even more difficult to recover. Lesley McClurg of Capital Public Radio reports on a family whose immigration status compounds their losses from the Valley Fire north of Napa.

LESLEY MCCLURG, BYLINE: Patricia Madrigal unloads donated clothes into her new temporary home, a yellow dome tent at a campground outside of the small community of Middletown.

PATRICIA MADRIGAL: (Through interpreter) We lost everything because we couldn't salvage anything.

MCCLURG: Madrigal's eyes fill with tears.

MADRIGAL: (Through interpreter) It was all of a sudden. We were living in the moment because it was so traumatic.

MCCLURG: Madrigal moved to California from Mexico illegally seven years ago. Since that time, she's washed dishes for a retreat center. Now that center and Madrigal's home are ashes.

MADRIGAL: (Through interpreter) The little that we had is gone.

MCCLURG: Including her Mexican marriage license, her daughter's birth certificate and any proof that the family has lived in the U.S. She's contacted the Mexican consulate to see if duplicates can be made. But so far, the process has been overwhelming.

MADRIGAL: (Through interpreter) I'm so sad for what happened. We never imagined this.

MCCLURG: Madrigal's 19-year-old daughter, Jacqueline Burgueno, sits hunched over an ice chest just outside her tent, listening to her mom cry. Burgueno was home alone when she was evacuated...

JACQUELINE BURGUENO: I didn't get anything. I was too nervous about anything.

MCCLURG: ...Including her work permit and her Social Security card. Burgueno was born in Tijuana, but she has temporary legal status under the federal policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. She expects she'll be out of work for at least two months while new documents are processed, and that leaves her wondering how she'll continue to pay for nursing school.

BURGUENO: I was thinking of getting, like, a full-time job and see how I could help.

MCCLURG: You mean, like, drop out of school.

BURGUENO: That could be a possibility. I don't want to.

VERONICA MCGEE: And here was another Latino family right here - oh, wow.

MCCLURG: Veronica McGee volunteers as a translator for homeless Spanish-speaking families. She's driving to the area of Middletown where many Latinos once lived.

MCGEE: All the apartment, you can see that it's just powder.

MCCLURG: Powder is a really good description.

MCGEE: Literally, literally.

MCCLURG: She points to an ash-covered lot. The skeleton of a truck sits in what used to be a driveway.

MCGEE: Look at this. Look at this.

MCCLURG: A statue of St. Francis of Assisi stands in the ashes next to a rusty tricycle.

MCGEE: (Speaking Spanish).

MCCLURG: Later that night, McGee is translating at a community meeting at the local elementary school. FEMA representatives are on hand to talk to victims about available aid. Families listen attentively. There's a palpable fear in the air. FEMA rep Allen Anderson assures them he won't turn them in to immigration authorities.

ALLEN ANDERSON: Our concern is to keep a safe, sanitary roof above your head.

MCCLURG: Anderson sells them it's safe to list their full names on forms.

ANDERSON: If you have one legal family member in the household, we can register you. You could be even a three-day-old baby.

MCCLURG: Despite those reassurances, Patricia Madrigal is terrified that she'll be deported to Michoacan where she's from in Mexico.

MADRIGAL: (Through interpreter) There's lots of killings where we are from. There's lots of violence. There's no justice or security. There's nothing there.

MCCLURG: Madrigal takes the FEMA forms and says she'll consider filling them out back at the campground. For NPR News, Lesley McClurg in Middletown, Calif.

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