Houston Mayor: Undocumented Immigrants Welcome at Harvey Shelters

With shelters quickly filling up around storm-battered Houston, federal officials are combatting rumors that undocumented immigrants can not go to a shelter because they will be reported to immigration officials. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told ABC News that he would represent any immigrant facing deportation after seeking relief from the storm.

Additionally, the city of Houston said in a tweet that they “will not ask for immigration status or papers from anyone at any shelter”.

The penalties and the nature of the law will “further erode trust between the police and the communities they serve” because police “will undoubtedly racially profile Hispanic or Latino people” and “they will improperly apply the law for fear of being seen as weak on immigration enforcement”, the ACLU wrote last Thursday.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have stated that it is not conducting immigration enforcement at relief sites such as shelters or food banks”.

“I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what your status is. This rumor is FALSE!” The law, similar in many respects to Arizona’s infamous 2010 “Show Me Your Papers” law, requires local law enforcement agencies to comply with all immigration detainer requests to transfer detained immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. But in order to receive some Red Cross services, such as meeting with a caseworker to facilitate disaster recovery, they will need to verify a person’s pre-disaster address.

In a press conference on Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that people attempting to access shelters during the storm would not be asked to present their IDs before entering.

“It’s my understanding from what I saw from the border patrol instructions yesterday that it will not be an issue”, Abbott told MSNBC. “While we will continue our efforts to work with Denver’s city government in support of public safety, it is disappointing that they have taken such an extreme step in the wrong direction”.

The state Senate bill, which goes into effect September 1, outlaws “sanctuary cities” in the state and allows state and local law enforcement officers to check immigration status.

The ordinance does not prohibit the sheriff’s office from notifying ICE if someone wanted for deportation is leaving the jail – a source of controversy since earlier this year, when the city came under fire for only giving ICE 26 minutes’ notice before releasing an inmate from a downtown Denver jail. “I do not want you to run the risk of losing your life or [that of] a family member because you’re concerned about SB 4 or anything else”, Turner said. The Pew Research Center estimated in 2016 that 28 percent of Texas’s construction workforce is comprised of undocumented immigrants.

“Routine non-criminal immigration enforcement operations will not be conducted at evacuation sites, or assistance centers such as shelters or food banks”, CPB and ICE said in a joint statement.

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