More than 1.5 million people were recently ordered to evacuate their homes along the U.S. Atlantic coast ahead of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm and the most powerful one to menace the Carolinas in nearly three decades.
However, even with the massive disaster looming over their heads, there were some residents who didn’t want to leave their houses and shift to a shelter home.
So, what reportedly held them back? The fear of deportation, it appears.
Case in point: A woman living in North Carolina, Iris, who wanted her last name to stay hidden, said she was afraid to flee her home because she feared immigration officers might arrest her and her family.
"My worry was when someone said, 'If you go to shelters, you have to be careful,' someone told me they weren't accepting people who were undocumented. But if they went, they would run the risk of being taken [from] there, and I didn't want to run the risk with my kids," Iris told NBC News in Spanish through a translator.
It just makes sense for immigrants living in President Donald Trump’s America to be wary of their future in the country, considering how the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in recent months have relentlessly arrested people for no good reason at all.
But, Iris’s reluctance to move her family from her Wilmington home along the North Carolina coast, even at the face of a fast-approaching storm, goes to highlight the extent of fear amongst immigrants these days.
"I don't even want to think if that was to happen," Iris, a mother of three, said as she started to cry.
The anxiety of people like Iris isn’t misplaced.
Last year, a sheriff in Polk County, Florida, came under fire when he forced shelter-seekers to undergo background checks. His actions were not just unconstitutional but also subsequently stoked fears amongst immigrants who were already in a state of limbo being away from the protection of their homes.
However, for the current situation, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo assured it’s the people’s safety that’s their top priority and the authorities have nothing to do with any shelter-seeker’s immigration status.
"Whatever happens in respect to if there's anybody illegal, we don't care about that," said the mayor. "What we care about is the preservation of life."
Iris, upon getting some reassurance from the Wilmington police chief, felt a little less scared about the whole situation.
"It makes me feel better to know that that's not going to happen," she said. "I'm sure you are parents as well, and you can just imagine how that would feel if that was to happen.”
The nonprofit organization, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), also posted a statement from the ICE where the agency promised to stay out of people’s way during the hurricane season.
?? Everyone in the path of Hurricane Florence has the right to seek shelter without fear of deportation. @ICEgov promised no enforcement in the storm's path.— ACLU of Florida (@ACLUFL) September 13, 2018
During Hurricane Irma in Florida last year, that's the way it was.
If ICE tells you otherwise, we want to hear about it. https://t.co/RoqBWG2GlU
Banner Image Credits: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images