The federal government has issued “a hurricane amnesty” for the estimated 1.6 million illegal immigrants in Texas. Over a million people have already evacuated the state as Hurricane Ike makes its way toward the Gulf Coast, but the Christian Science Monitor reports that emergency workers are concerned that some illegal immigrants may not leave for fear of prosecution.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have stepped up raids in recent months, making 3,900 immigration arrests and 1,000 criminal arrests nationwide, and some immigration advocates say the government is giving mixed messages about amnesty. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in May that illegal immigrants who evacuate won't be targeted by federal authorities, but a vanload of illegal workers who fled ahead of hurricane Dolly this summer were stopped and picked up by the border patrol.
The Red Cross has been handing out leaflets across the region to let people know about the amnesty, and government officials say the are working to get the word out. Joe Stinebaker, spokesman for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett:
I would hope very strongly, and I suspect, that all people are more interested in their family's safety than whether or not an ID might be checked somewhere along the line. Nobody has any interest in using this as a law enforcement round up. This is an attempt to save lives and avoid catastrophe.