Gulf Coast Advocates Call for a Halt in Immigration Enforcement in Wake of Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura left much of Louisiana flooded.

Hurricane Laura left much of Louisiana flooded. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Advocates for undocumented immigrants say that migrants are less like to access evacuation help or emergency aid when they fear deportation.

Advocates for undocumented immigrants in southern states are calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to halt immigration enforcement while people pick up their lives after Hurricane Laura. Threats of deportation make immigrants wary of accepting help from people in charge of evacuation efforts, providing emergency aid or setting up temporary shelters, they  say.

In a letter sent on Wednesday to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf by 40 advocacy organizations along the Gulf Coast, the groups say that “emergency protection from hurricanes and natural disasters is a fundamental human right; evacuation and displacement should never lead to deportation.”

“In the absence of assurances from DHS, immigrant residents and their families fear risking deportation when they engage with the state’s evacuation, shelter, and emergency aid efforts,” the letter reads. “Clear, specific assurances from DHS that immigration enforcement is unequivocally suspended is critical to the ongoing safety of all Gulf Coast residents during this humanitarian crisis.”

The effort to stop immigration enforcement, led by the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, seeks to protect immigrant communities in Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Both Louisiana and Texas were pummeled by Hurricane Laura, and all of those states could see more storms in the coming weeks as hurricane season continues. Thousands of people were evacuated out of Laura’s path, which left behind destroyed houses and apartment buildings, especially in southwest Louisiana. 

About 137,000 people have no water at all in Louisiana, while many more are being told to boil their water before use. About 75% of the power outages caused by Hurricane Laura have been restored, but 251,000 electricity customers, most of them in Louisiana, remained without power as of September 2.  

The request to stop immigration enforcement while people assess the damage to their homes and figure out alternative living arrangements is not without precedent. During the recovery from some major natural disasters, including Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy in 2012, DHS issued statements to the public assuring that “there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations and sheltering … including the use of checkpoints for immigration enforcement purposes.”

Immigrants held in Louisiana detention centers that contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement say that Hurricane Laura knocked out power, flooded units, and caused “knee-deep” sewage backups. “The hurricane stopped up the water. No water, no electricity,” said one immigrant who posted a video to Facebook from inside the Jackson Parish detention center after Hurricane Laura. “Everybody’s going insane.”

Rather than bring more people into squalid conditions, the advocacy groups want to see DHS focus on “life-saving and life-sustaining activities, preventing the loss of property to the extent possible, and assisting with a speedy recovery of the affected region.” During past natural disasters, DHS has sometimes provided translators and assisted in recovery efforts coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other state agencies.

Acting Secretary Wolf said during a press briefing on August 27 that DHS had deployed  Customs and Border Protection air assets to assist in the recovery efforts from recent hurricanes. “Americans are resilient people, and DHS is prepared to help our fellow Americans in the path of the hurricane to recover and to respond,” he said. 

But Wolf stopped short of assuring coastal immigrants that DHS would not conduct deportations during these recovery efforts. 

DHS did not respond to a request for comment about whether they had reviewed the letter or if they might temporarily halt enforcement in the Gulf Coast.

Nikki Thanos, the legal and policy director for the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, said that focusing on immigration enforcement during a disaster is a waste of resources. “DHS is spending resources tearing families apart when all critical resources should be directed toward recovery—getting folks back in their homes and keeping families together,” she said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.