Many of the 125 people who lost their homes during Saturday’s massive blaze in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are immigrants who lost valuable documents and paperwork. Those documents and paperwork are critical for jobs, travel back to people’s home countries, and proof of citizenship.
Mesmer Ghebreluul says he’s struggling to start all over again after the fire.
“It’s like you’re born again. That’s where I’m at now,” Ghebreluul said. “All my important stuff. It’s hard to remember — so much important. What can i tell you?”
Ghebreluul and his family came from Eretria, East Africa. While staying in a hotel, they had to lay out all their important documents they managed to salvage out of their apartment at 50 York Street. Yet, things like birth certificates and identifications are still missing.
“We had to use a hair dryer to dry all these documents out,” said Ghebreluul’s son, Nahum Mesmer. “Definitely missing the date of birth for myself and my two sisters.”
Along with the struggle to find permanent housing, the city of Cambridge and relief agencies like the Islamic Circle of North America are trying to help people reapply for important immigration documents.
“Especially with the upcoming inauguration of Trump, we don’t know what’s going to happen with immigration,” said Malika McDonald, of ICNA Relief.
Cambridge City Counselor Nadeem Mazen says he understands these documents give people peace of mind and he’s trying to help fast track the process.
“Because Cambridge is a sanctuary city, people are safe and are being taken care of,” Mazen said. “I am channeling inquiries through my office and I’m sure the other counselors as well.”
Immigration attorney Jan Albrecht says reapplying for immigration documents like green cards is complicated.
“It could take months. It really depends on what has been lost, and what does one have to prove that the document existed in the first place,” Albrecht said.
According to Albrecht, there are ways to expedite the process with U.S. Immigration and Consulates, and also to have the fee waived.
Albrecht is offering his services for free to help residents navigate through the recovery process.