Oct 26, 2017 - Energy & Environment

Immigration crackdown keeps wildfire victims from seeking help

Homes destroyed by fires are shown in Santa Rosa, Calif. Photo: Jeff Chiu / AP

Several immigrants displaced by the California wildfires are choosing not to submit applications seeking federal aid out of fear that the information they provide could make them easy deportation targets, per the San Francisco Chronicle.

What's next: Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) plans to send a letter to FEMA administrator Brock Long today that seeks clarification on the section of FEMA applications that states the information provided could be shared within the Department of Homeland Security, including the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

His quote: "We have heard from constituents who are eligible for aid — U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals and qualified aliens — but are concerned that applying for FEMA assistance might expose their family members or neighbors to immigration enforcement," Huffman wrote in the letter obtained by The Chronicle.

What they're saying:

  • FEMA spokesman David Passey said Wednesday that the agency does not ask for immigration status on its aid eligibility forms, adding that he's" not aware of a single case" where there was a requirement to share information with ICE. But "if a significant law enforcement interest exists, FEMA may share information" with DHS, said Passey.
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said in a statement to the Chronicle that Trump's "heartless immigration policies caused this problem, and now we're seeing immigrant families declining federal help they're eligible for because they're scared. FEMA should make crystal clear that it will work with ICE to ensure immigrant families won't be targeted for deportation."

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