Immigrant Victims of the WTC Attack

September 25, 2007

NEW YORK CITY—Hundreds of workers from Latin America and the Caribbean are among the thousands who are presumed dead after two hijacked jetliners were flown into the World Trade Center (WTC) on September 11. The Salvadoran government reported that 72 of the 421,000 Salvadorans who live in New York were missing in the attack. According to reports by their New York consulates, three Venezuelans, five Argentines, 26 Brazilians, and 24 Ecuadorians were missing as of September 15. As of late October, the official figure for Mexicans killed or missing is 13, although immigrant organizations say this figure may be too low.

While many were legal immigrants and naturalized citizens, an unknown number were also undocumented. The families of the undocumented are afraid to seek assistance. Many don’t speak enough English to negotiate the crowded relief centers and are frightened away by the large police presence. Even if they are brave enough to get past the police, many people have been waiting in long lines only to be asked for Social Security numbers by government officials.

Non-profit organizations and city agencies are rallying to offer assistance: hotlines to report harassment, on-site assistance at disaster relief centers, and referrals to deal with the agonizing legal matters that can arise for victims’ families. Would-be beneficiaries of immigrant petitions for legal residence filed by WTC victims will find that their dreams of a green card have died along with their loved ones, in some cases jeopardizing the legal status of entire families. On hold, for the foreseeable future, are plans to create new legalization provisions for some undocumented immigrants. [See "Immigration Policy in Flux" in this issue.]

Karin Andersen is an immigration attorney and a doctoral candidate in political science at the New School for Social Research.

Weekly News Update on the Americas is published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York. For subscription information: Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 334 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012, (212) 674-9499; Email:


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