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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Biden Nominates Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez To Lead ICE And Here’s Why That Matters

Things That Matter

Biden Nominates Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez To Lead ICE And Here’s Why That Matters

For years now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been enforcing cruel and, in many opinions, illegal immigration policies that have affected the most vulnerable among us. And they’ve been doing it without a permanent leader who can be held accountable.

The Trump administration relied on interim leaders and deputy secretaries to head the sprawling and powerful agency. Now, President Biden has nominated a frequent outspoken Trump critic to lead the agency and many are hopeful there could be real change.

The White House has nominated Texas sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead ICE.

President Joe Biden has nominated a Texas sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, to lead ICE. Gonzalez has been the sheriff of Harris County (parts of Houston, TX) since 2017, leading the state’s largest sheriffs department. He has led a team of 5,000 employees in the position and previously served 18 years with the Houston Police Department, rising to the rank of sergeant, according to his profile on his office’s website.

Gonzalez has also been a vocal critic of elements of former President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies.

Gonzalez is the second such critic to be selected by Biden for a senior position in the Department of Homeland Security, following the nomination two weeks ago of Tucson, AZ., Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Gonzalez has long been a voice of reason within law enforcement leading many to be hopeful for change.

During his first term as sheriff Gonzalez ended a program with ICE that trained 10 Harris County deputies to determine the immigration status of prisoners, and hold for deportation those in the country illegally.

As sheriff he also opposed Texas legislation requiring local law enforcement to determine individuals’ immigration status, according to The Texas Tribune. The legislation was viewed as targeting so-called “sanctuary cities.” Gonzalez, like many in law enforcement, said the approach would destroy trust and make their job protecting communities more difficult.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas praised Biden’s pick in a statement Tuesday.

“Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is a strong choice for ICE Director,” Mayorkas said. “With a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Sheriff Gonzalez is well-suited to lead ICE as the agency advances our public safety and homeland security mission. I hope the Senate will swiftly confirm Sheriff Gonzalez to this critical position.”

ICE has long been missing a permanent director to lead the agency.

Gonzales would succeed Tae Johnson, who has been serving as acting ICE director since Jan. 13. He previously served as the agency’s deputy director.

ICE has not had a permanent director since 2017. The agency operated with five acting directors under the Trump administration. This comes as the Biden administration has faced challenges at the border, including a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S.

The announcement of Gonzalez’s nomination comes on the heels of another major announcement from DHS. Mayorkas also announced Tuesday that he has directed ICE and Customs and Border Protection to place new limits on civil immigration enforcement actions in or near courthouses.

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A Group of Volunteer ‘Fairy Godmothers’ Threw a Lavish Quinceañera For This Homeless Teen Girl

Things That Matter

A Group of Volunteer ‘Fairy Godmothers’ Threw a Lavish Quinceañera For This Homeless Teen Girl

Photo via Getty Images

For most Latinas, having a quinceañera is a right-of-passage. Your quinceañera is the official milestone that proves you’re finally a woman. It’s a party that you look forward to your entire childhood. It’s that one time in your life that you, and only you, get to feel like a princess.

Unfortunately, not every girl has the luxury of having a quinceañera. Some girls’ families don’t have the finances to throw a huge party.

In Miami, a group of “fairy godmothers” organized a quinceañera for a homeless teen girl whose family recently emigrated from Mexico.

The girl, Adriana Palma, had moved with her family from Mexico to Miami in early 2020. But because of the pandemic, her father lost his job. Adriana, her parents, and her three younger brothers spent the next four months living in their SUV.

Relocating to another country is hard enough, but Adriana faced another challenge by being homeless, struggling to learn English, and chasing down random Wi-Fi signals in order to complete her homework assignments. It was a struggle, to say the least.

And to make matters worse, Adriana’s fifteenth birthday was coming up. Adrian’s parents told her that, since they were homeless, they wouldn’t be able to throw her a quinceañera. “We will be together as a family,” her mother, Itzel Palma, told her. “That will be my gift to you.”

Luckily, the Palma family had a group of guardian angels watching out for them. Being homeless wouldn’t prevent Adriana from having a quinceañera.

A charity called Miami Rescue Mission had already hooked up the Palmas with a small apartment for the family to get back on their feet. “Cover Girls”, a subgroup of the Miami Rescue Mission, dedicate their time to help women and children who are in tough circumstances.

When Lian Navarro, leader of the Cover Girls, found out about Adriana’s situation, she knew she had to help. Cuban-Amercian herself, Navarro knew how important quinceañeras are to young Latinas. She called up her group of volunteers and they got to work making Adriana’s dream come true.

The 60 “fairy godmothers” decided to throw Adriana the quinceañera of her dreams in a local Miami church. They settled on a theme: Paris.

The volunteers decorated the bare church in gold Eiffel towers, supplied pink macarons and French pastries, they topped off each table with a floral centerpiece. They gifted Adriana with every item on her wish list. Not to mention, Adriana was able to be dressed up in a frilly pink quinceañera dress. Her hair and makeup were professionally done. A professional photographer captured her special day.

“We want them to have these memories,” said Cover Girl volunteer, Tadia Silva, about children and teens who grow up homeless. “They have to believe they are worth all that because they are.”

After her beautiful quinceañera, Adriana appeared to know her true worth. At the end of the party, she gave her “fairy godmothers” personalized notes of thanks. “I felt like a princess,” she said.

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