Things That Matter

Hurricane Florence Left Devastating Flooding In Its Wake But Undocumented Residents Are Too Fearful To Seek Help

As Hurricane Florence was nearing the east coast many residents had generic fears of their homes and communities. Yet, beyond the physical destruction the storm caused, many North Carolina residents feared the loss of their loved ones. Not due to death by the storm, but due to separation by immigration officials. This fear was likely stoked by Border Patrol’s reluctance to shutter immigration checkpoints in Texas as Hurricane Harvey neared landfall. Border Patrol relented during Hurricane Harvey after mounting pressure from the public.

Undocumented immigrants in North Carolina faced mounting fear in the face of Hurricane Florence as many feared immigration officials.

Stories from Hurricane Harvey and Border Patrol trying to enforce immigration checkpoints have lingered in the undocumented immigrant psyche. The immigration officials in Texas gave in and allowed everyone to evacuate without fear of immigration checkpoints. Those fears in North Carolina’s undocumented community was exacerbated because North Carolina is one of few states with a 287(g) program. The 287(g) program allows for local law enforcement officials to enter into partnerships with federal immigration officers to detain and transfer undocumented people to detention centers.

“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, an undocumented immigrant in North Carolina told NBC News.

This has been an overwhelming fear for people like Iris as countless undocumented immigrants have been deported from their families this year.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, the city where Iris lives, said they only wants people to be safe and nobody should be afraid to get help because of their immigration status.

“Whatever happens in respect to if there’s anybody illegal, we don’t care about that,” Saffo told NBC News. “What we care about is the preservation of life.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent out a tweet saying if an individual is undocumented they shouldn’t have any worries because ICE agents “promised there won’t be sweeps” as Hurricane Florence approached. Regardless of ICE’s promise to suspend activities in light of the hurricane, the American Red Cross has made it clear it will not abide by any requests by officials to see the immigration papers of people seeking shelter.

North Carolina is one of few states that pioneered police collaboration with ICE called 287(g) programs, which allow state and local authorities to partner with immigration officials.

Now that Hurricane Florence has passed many undocumented people like Iris are afraid to seek help from emergency response agents. In an interview with Democracy Now, Laura Garduño García, a DACA recipient and North Carolina resident, said emergency response agents are coming to the state in Customs and Border Patrol vehicles and uniforms. This has caused some uneasiness among undocumented residents and in no way creates trust between community members and the federal agencies.

“It is just appalling, the total disregard to community members who are facing the devastation following the storm to then come out looking for help or looking for supplies to take back to their homes and then find everywhere in the eastern part of the state Customs and Border Patrol vehicles,” García said. “It is totally unacceptable, and FEMA should not be engaging in these tactics.”

At least 43 people have died in storm-related incidents in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia since the hurricane made landfall on Sept. 14.


READ: Trump Administration Transferred Nearly $10 Million From FEMA To ICE For Detention Programs

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Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

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Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas is Cuban-born and was one of the original architects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant to be confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Secretary Mayorkas is inheriting a Trump-era DHS and is immediately getting to work to rectify issues that the Biden administration has highlighted. Two of the most pressing issues are heading up a task force to reunite migrant families who were separated by the previous administration and reviewing the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“Remain in Mexico” is a policy that the Trump administration created and enforced that sent migrants to Mexico to await their asylum cases. The policy has been criticized both by U.S. and international politicians as a humanitarian issue.

It isn’t Mayorkas’ first time working for DHS.

Sec. Mayorkas was the deputy secretary of DHS from December 2013 – October 2016 under President Barack Obama. During that time, Mayorkas was crucial in responding to the 2013 – 14 Ebola virus epidemic and 2015 – 16 Zika virus epidemic. Mayorkas is ready to come back to the department and to bring back what he sees are the department’s mission.

“DHS bears an extraordinary weight on behalf of the American people, the weight of grave challenges seen and unseen,” Sec. Mayorkas said in a statement. “It is the greatest privilege of my life to return to the Department to lead the men and women who dedicate their talent and energy to the safety and security of our nation. I will work every day to ensure that they have the tools they need to execute their missions with honor and integrity. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values. The United States is a welcoming and empathetic nation, one that finds strength in its diversity. I pledge to defend and secure our country without sacrificing these American values.”

Mayorkas is no stranger to working on America’s immigration system.

Mayorkas is one of the original architects of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is at stake because of the previous administration. The Biden administration has made a promise to preserve DACA and to create a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.

President Biden has introduced legislation to reform the current immigration system. The legislation has a timeframe for all undocumented people in the U.S. to become citizens if they follow certains steps and meet certain criteria.

While Mayorkas got bipartisan support in the Senate confirmation, some Republicans did not like his work in immigration. Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Cuban, voted to opposed Mayorkas.

“Not only has Mayorkas pledged to undo the sensible protections put in place by the Trump Administration that ended the dangerous policy of catch and release, but his nomination is further evidence that the Biden Administration intends to pursue a radical immigration agenda,” Sen. Rubio said in a statement.

READ: President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

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ICE Has Gone Rogue As It Continues With Deportations Despite Several Policy Changes

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ICE Has Gone Rogue As It Continues With Deportations Despite Several Policy Changes

Long before taking office, President Biden vowed to undo many of the Trump administration’s most cruel and inhumane immigration policies within days of taking office. But despite several executive orders, Biden’s policies have met several roadblocks and swift changes in immigration policy have yet to arrive.

One major roadblock to ending deportations has been a federal judge that placed a hold on a Biden’s executive order and the other has been a “rogue agency” that’s continued several of Trump’s immigration policies.

Migrant rights advocates are calling ICE a “rogue agency” as it faces new allegations of abuse.

Although President Biden has outlined his immigration policy and installed his new head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – which oversees ICE – the White House still does not have full control of ICE, which faces multiple allegations of human rights abuses and allegations that it has disproportionately targeted Black migrants.

The agency also continues to deport immigrants who don’t fit the categories approved for deportation by DHS – even those who had been taken off deportation flights just hours before.

Many deportees are claiming that ICE has stepped up its torture of detainees.

Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Several migrant rights groups – Freedom for Immigrants, Al Otro Lado and Advocates for Immigrants Rights – published affidavits from Cameroonian asylum seekers who they said were tortured by being forced to approve their own deportations. The asylum seekers described being forced to the floor and having their fingers inked and pressed on to deportation documents they had refused to sign.

According to The Guardian, one Cameroonian asylum seeker described being brought into a room with darkened windows where he was forced by agents to put his fingerprint on a document in lieu of a signature, waiving his rights to further legal process before deportation.

“I tried to stand up because of the force that they were using on me, and they tripped me,” HT said. “I fell on the floor; I kept my hands under my body. I held my hands tight at waist level so they could not have them. Five of the Ice officers and one of the officers in green … joined them. They pressed me down and said that I needed to give them my finger for the fingerprint.”

One man was put on a flight to Haiti even though he’s not Haitian and had never been to that country.

And despite new directives from DHS and the Biden administration, ICE continues to carry out deportation flights containing people who fit none of the current criteria for deportation.

Just last week, Paul Pierrilus, a 40-year-old financial consultant from New York, who had never been to Haiti and is not a Haitian citizen, was taken off a deportation flight at the last moment after the intervention of his local congressman, Mondaire Jones. But just days later, ICE put him on another plane and sent him to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Jones told the Guardian: “Ice is a rogue agency that must be brought to heel. There is no world in which an agency under the control of the leader of the executive branch should continue to deport people after the president of the United States signed an executive order halting deportations for 100 days.”

However, the Biden administration has also moved forward on its own with many deportations.

It’s true that a federal judge ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day pause on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. However, the administration has moved forward on deportations for hundreds of immigrants within the past two weeks.

It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally, the priority under new guidance that DHS issued to enforcement agencies.

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