HEALTH

Ahead of Obama visit to Flint, White House official addresses Spanish-language residents

The Spanish-speaking community in Flint, Michigan, may have been kept perilously in the dark for months before Spanish-language information about the city's water crisis was distributed, signs visibly posted or clergy went door-to-door to warn residents.

Leading up to President Barack Obama’s trip to Flint on Wednesday, White House Domestic Policy Council director Cecilia Muñoz was in Flint on Tuesday visiting the Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ to investigate how the water crisis has impacted people – particularly those in the Latino community.

"[Obama] also wants to make sure the people know we're not just working, but we're also securing services especially for young people who have suffered in this crisis," Muñoz said in a Spanish-language video statement. "For the children who have been hurt, there are resources, there's help and there's a future."

Flint’s undocumented residents said they were too afraid to go to water distributions centers during the crisis, as they were worried they’d be asked by authorities for information about their immigration status.

In February, the Department of Homeland Security issued a notice stating they would not be conducting immigration enforcement operations in the city during the water crisis.

In the statement, Muñoz urged Spanish-speakers to use the resources that are available to them.

"It's important to make sure people are using bottled water or water filters, but that they are also involved in the process and they understand what health services, nutrition services, education (services) are available for any person in our community," Muñoz said.

The president is scheduled to visit the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and Northwestern High School, where he will speak to an audience of around 1,000 people.

A longtime civil rights advocate prior to her role at the White House, Muñoz served as the senior vice president for the Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) – the nation's largest nonprofit Latino civil rights group.

In 2000, she was a named a MacArthur Fellow for her work in civil rights and immigration.

She was born in La Paz, Bolivia, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan.      

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