Undocumented immigrants affected by floods in Houston have no reason to fear the risk of deportation if they need help from a shelter. That, at least, is the message coming from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as Hurricane Harvey forces many of the city's residents to evacuate their homes. During a press conference on Monday, Aug. 28, Turner made himself clear: the Houston Mayor will help undocumented immigrants seeking hurricane relief, even if he personally has to get involved.
The mayor, who's also an attorney, told reporters,
There is absolutely no reason why anyone should not call. And I and others will be the first ones to stand up with you. If someone comes and they require help and then for some reason [someone] tries to deport them, I will represent them myself.
Over 30,000 people have been forced to leave their homes since Harvey made landfall in Houston. And despite being downgraded to a Tropical Storm, Harvey can still cause more damage. Up to 15 inches of rain could still be dumped across the southeastern portion of Texas and the southwestern portion of neighboring Louisiana, according to CNN.
CNN also reports that federal officials are expecting the storm will prompt over 30,000 people to seek the help of shelters, while 450,000 people are expected to seek some form of disaster relief.
The bottom line: the Houston mayor's message to undocumented immigrants comes at a time when the number of people looking to see help shows no signs of slowing down.
Turner told reporters,
If you are in a stressful situation, I don't care who you are, I don't care what you're religion is, I don't care what your language is, you come and take advantage of every service that we have
The Houston Chronicle reported that FEMA officials also wanted to the debunk the myth that people seek shelter will require documentation.
To be clear, the idea of undocumented immigrants resisting relying on emergency services is no novelty. Back in March, for example, The Guardian reported on immigrants who are reluctant to report crimes to the police for fear of being deported upon issueing a complaint.
According to Houston's mayor, however, there's no reason for undocumented immigrants to have a similar fear while seeking help after Hurrican Harvey.