Officials assure undocumented immigrants they will not be arrested if they seek shelter after Harvey

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Evacuees from Hurricane Harvey take shelter at the Delco Center in east Austin, Texas on Sunday, August 27, 2017. The Red Cross says they currently have 185 people but if needed, are prepared to handle 350 people at this location.
Tropical Storm Harvey lashed central Texas with torrential rains on Sunday, unleashing “catastrophic” floods after the megastorm — the most powerful to hit the United States since 2005 — left a deadly trail of devastation along the Gulf Coast. / AFP PHOTO / SUZANNE CORDEIRO (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)

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Undocumented immigrants who seek shelter from Harvey’s devastation don’t have to worry about ICE agents picking them up. That’s the message from immigration officials, FEMA and the city of Houston.

On its page on Hurricane Harvey, FEMA addresses the rumor head-on.

“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. ”

It adds that most shelters are managed by local communities and the Red Cross. “The Red Cross will not ask people to show any form of identification in order to stay in their shelters. ”

Likewise, ICE issued a statement reiterating the point.

“Routine non-criminal immigration enforcement operations will not be conducted at evacuation sites, or assistance centers such as shelters or food banks,” it said.

And the city of Houston said the same thing, in a tweet: “We will not ask for immigration status or papers from anyone at any shelter. This rumor is FALSE!”

The Customs and Border Protection agency operates checkpoints north of the Mexico border, within the path of evacuation for many fleeing the storm.

CBP has said these checkpoints will remain open during Harvey and its aftermath, a move that attracted scorn from the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

The CBP’s decision, along with the fact that ICE and FEMA both fall under the same department — the Department of Homeland Security — undoubtedly raised deportation fears. The messages from the agencies were meant to alleviate those worries.

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