No immigration status scrutiny for those seeking Hurricane Ian relief


President Joe Biden is making the situation for anyone in this emergency clear.

Disaster relief is for everyone — even if you are not in the country legally, the feds said as Hurricane Ian slammed into the state.

Those fleeing Ian’s wrath or coping with the storm’s fallout should seek help without worrying that officials will be scrutinizing immigration status, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Wednesday.

It’s a shift from the last administration’s policy that treated unauthorized border crossing as a crime. President Donald Trump’s administration endured criticism for not ending Border Patrol checkpoints in an emergency. Advocates said that put migrants in the position of having to choose between staying in a life-threatening situation or being exposed to immigration enforcement.

President Joe Biden is making the situation for anyone in this emergency clear.

Emergency response and relief are “protected areas,” the statement says.

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“To the fullest extent possible, (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol) do not conduct immigration enforcement activities at protected areas such as along evacuation routes, sites used for sheltering or the distribution of emergency supplies, food or water, or registration sites for disaster-related assistances or the reunification of families and loved ones,” the statement reads.

The federal government’s enforcement of immigration laws has been a focus of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration. The Governor sent migrants to Martha’s Vineyard via state-paid chartered flights this month to draw attention to the number of migrants coming over the southern border with Texas.

The Governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the statement from DHS.

The statement also said that DHS officials do not and will not pose as individuals providing emergency-related information in order to enforce immigration laws.

“DHS is committed to ensuring that every individual who seeks shelter, aid or other assistance as a result of Hurricane Ian is able to do so regardless of their immigration status,” the statement reads.

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Estimates are that 775,000 undocumented immigrants live in this state — about 4% of the total population — according to a paper the American Immigration Council published in 2020.


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