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November 15, 2017

LA Daily News: LA-area Democrat’s bill would stop immigration enforcement in disaster areas

Immigration authorities would be required to suspend enforcement operations in areas affected by disasters and emergencies — like this year’s southern hurricanes and California wildfires — under a bill co-authored by Los Angeles-area Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragan.

Introduced Wednesday by Barragan, a Democrat with a district office in Carson, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, the Safe Emergency Response Act is a response to reports of people avoiding official help with evacuation and shelter during the Texas and Florida storms and floods because they were afraid their immigration status would be checked.

“Undocumented people and mixed-status families must be able to safely evacuate from disaster areas without fear of deportation,” Barragan, who represents a mostly Latino district that runs from San Pedro up to South Gate, said in an announcement. “My legislation ensures that evacuees are focused on what’s important — their safety and the safety of those around them.”

The bill would put restrictions on federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as well as state law enforcement agencies.

ICE and CBP directives during the recent hurricanes and wildfires were criticized as vague. The Trump administration announced that the two agencies would not conduct “routine non-criminal immigration enforcement operations” during the hurricanes, but made clear that “the laws will not be suspended.” By contrast, the Obama administration more clearly stated that it was suspending immigration enforcement initiatives in the Southeast during 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.

Amid confusion, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tried to assure undocumented immigrants that people would not have to show identification to use emergency shelters.

There were reports from the Houston area of people impersonating ICE agents telling people to evacuate and then trying to rob their houses.

Barragan said Republicans have shown “initial interest” in supporting the bill. She called it a “common-sense solution” that will make it easier for people to evacuate natural disasters safely. READ MORE