Broken down, the numbers show that the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land area accounts for 575,000 alone.
Before Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and caused catastrophic flooding in Houston and its surrounding areas, many of these immigrants were living in fear, given U.S. President Donald Trump’s ramped up immigration order to round up and deport many – criminal and those simply living in the country without legal status.
Post-Harvey many are fearful of seeking help without having any “papers” as some 200 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from its Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) and Special Response Teams (SRTs) have been deployed to southeast Texas to provide security for search and rescue teams and to assist with search and rescue operations.
ICE, to its credit, has reiterated that “immigration enforcement operations are not being conducted at evacuation sites, or assistance centers such as shelters or food banks.” Officials also stated that “in light of the hurricane, ICE’s highest priorities are to promote life-saving and life-sustaining activities, the safe evacuation of people who are leaving the impacted area, the maintenance of public order, the prevention of the loss of property to the extent possible, and the speedy recovery of the region.”
Houston and FEMA officials, including Governor Greg Abbott, have all debunked rumors that undocumented immigrants can’t go to Hurricane Harvey shelters or, if they do, their immigration status will be checked.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner even said he would personally defend any undocumented immigrants deported because they sought help after the storm.
“If someone comes and they require help and then for some reason (someone) tries to deport them, I will represent them myself,” he said.
This is welcome news, but the message needs to get repeated to the key target audience as just the presence of ICE agents in uniform in the area has been enough to scare many immigrants away, afraid to be stopped and asked for government identification they do not have.
It is also important that ICE hold this same stance as many now try to recover as best as they can.