ICE suspends immigration enforcement in New Orleans ahead of Barry

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The city of New Orleans announced Thursday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said they would suspend immigration enforcement efforts in the region over the weekend, as Louisiana and Mississippi brace for Tropical Storm Barry.

“The @CityOfNOLA has confirmed with @ICEgov in #NOLA that immigration enforcement will be temporarily suspended through the weekend in the #Barry impacted areas of Louisiana & Mississippi. Make all storm preparations to stay safe regardless of your immigration status,” tweeted NOLA Ready, the city’s disaster preparedness campaign.

{mosads}The announcement comes as ICE is preparing nationwide raids targeting undocumented immigrants who’ve been previously served deportation papers.

Representatives for ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New Orleans streets started flooding Wednesday as Barry gains strength in the Gulf of Mexico. The latest forecast predicts Barry will strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall in Louisiana on Saturday.

When New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not suspend immigration enforcement, but its agents were focused on assisting rescue missions.

At the time, DHS promised not to use information recouped from people fleeing the disaster for immigration purposes, but some disaster victims were ultimately questioned by immigration authorities, and at least three were put in deportation proceedings as a result, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Undocumented immigrants are eligible for short-term, non-cash disaster relief, but are barred from receiving cash, housing or jobs from emergency responders.

In the aftermath of Katrina, businesses were exempt from proving new hires were legally eligible to work in the country, as many citizens and legal residents had lost their documents and could not prove their eligibility.

Many undocumented immigrants ultimately avoided contact with authorities, losing access to emergency food and water supplies they were eligible for.

“We are very concerned because they’re afraid to ask for help,” Brent A. Wilkes, at the time executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told The Washington Post in a 2005 report. “It’s difficult to get word to them. They’re in the dark much more so than other folks. They have a default position: to avoid authorities at all costs.”


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