As if Houston residents needed one more thing to lose sleep over after Hurricane Harvey, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has issued a frightening statement notifying citizens that there have been reports of individuals posing as ICE agents to "evacuate" people from their homes.
"There are disturbing reports that people impersonating Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents are knocking on doors in the Houston area telling residents to evacuate -- presumably so these imposters can rob the empty homes," the statement reads. "Real HSI officials wear badges that are labeled 'special agent,' which members of the public can ask to see and verify. ICE officers with Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) also wear badges labeled with ERO Officer. They also carry credentials with their name and organization.
Members of the public who receive such visitors should ask to see these properly labeled badges, and their credentials."
ICE has also taken the opportunity to clarify their current role in southeast Texas, making it clear that their agents are on the ground with other law enforcement officers solely as part of relief efforts, not to detain and deport illegal immigrants.
This is an elaboration on the agency's joint statement with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's announcing that, "Routine non-criminal immigration enforcement operations will not be conducted at evacuation sites, or assistance centers such as shelters or food banks."
Undocumented immigrants living in Houston and its surrounding areas find themselves afraid not only for their physical safety, but for the safety of their lives in America. This puts them at particular risk in the wake of Harvey, as they are less likely to seek services they may desperately need out of fear of being detained and deported.
Even if the government has no plans to enforce ever-more-stringent immigration policies during natural disaster relief, making that clear is essential to avoid tragedies and prevent criminal acts against the vulnerable. Hopefully, these warnings by ICE are made widely accessible to all those grappling with the hurricane's aftermath.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Wikimedia Commons user U.S. Immigration and Customs Reinforcement