The post-Harvey plight of undocumented immigrants

On Behalf of | Aug 31, 2017 | US Immigration Law

For the last eight months, federal authorities have carried out the immigration enforcement agenda of President Donald Trump. Citing the need for public safety, traditional safe spaces that include churches, homeless shelters and courthouses have become targets and anything but safe.

With the power of the White House behind it, nothing seemed to stop the Trump Immigration Enforcement Train, particularly in Texas.

Until it met Hurricane Harvey.

As Houston continues to deal with the devastation, 400,000 undocumented immigrants who call the city home remain fearful beyond the impact of a hurricane.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that more than 30,000 people affected by Harvey will be placed in temporary shelters. Acknowledging the large segment of undocumented immigrants needing similar services, FEMA has made an effort to reassure them by citing their own definition of public safety.

FEMA announced that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would not enforce immigration laws at shelters, food banks and other relief sites. The only exception to that mandate would involve criminal aliens that represent a public safety threat.

With local communities and volunteer agencies managing most shelters, federal oversight is practically non-existent. The Red Cross, the most prominent of those organizations, has also vowed that they would not request identification from people seeking shelter from the storm.

Even the most powerful elected official and opponent of undocumented immigration has set aside his enforcement pursuits for now. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also announced that identification would not be required at shelters.

While reassurance helps, the pre-Harvey environment in Houston and throughout the Lone Star State remains cause for concern during the post-Harvey aftermath.