Prior to the disaster that struck Houston in late August due to Hurricane Harvey, Texan immigrants were already in a time of trials with variously planned government raids of deportation for mothers, children, and other undocumented immigrants. Between hundreds to thousands, undocumented immigrants have made Houston their home. Since new presidency for the U.S., immigration enforcement has stepped up their game in attempts to reduce the immigrant population – especially in Texas due to it’s proximity to Mexico. In the midst of border wall chaos and amplified immigration reform, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, drastically impacting immigrants already under a difficult situation.
With the exceptions of Los Angeles, California and New York, New York, Houston has the largest number of undocumented immigrants that’s estimated around nearly 600,000 families. This metropolitan area is full of immigrants seeking a better life, with families that have planted roots for years, and children born citizens of the United States. After the Trump Administration and laws against undocumented immigrants, many feared for their safety, their home, and their future after Hurricane Harvey left them stranded.
Despite the fear of shelters turning them away due to not having documentation, immigrants had to flee their homes from the record-high flood waters. Even those who are legal immigrants in the United States feared providing proof of documentation after flood waters potentially washed away their papers. Due to the rushed evacuations and having to escape the flood waters quickly, there just wasn’t enough time for many legal immigrants to grab their documentation papers. Additionally, those without papers had even more to fear by being turned in and deported, leaving behind their home in Houston.
Citizens and political leaders caught wave of this fear and provided reassurance that during this time of tragedy, there were much more pressing matters in Houston than routine immigration enforcement among shelters and food banks. Even Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, promised that undocumented immigrants fleeing the flood would not be turned over to ICE if they sought out help from shelters and food banks.
The mayor stated that their lives were not worth risking over fear of being deported. He did not want them to shy away from seeking help due to being an undocumented immigrant or even having a family member that was undocumented. Although Senate Bill 4, that outlaws sanctuary cities in the state of Texas, was set to be enforced as of September 1, the mayor stated that it was time to “put immigration law on the shelf” during this time of great need in Houston.
In the end, the state and federal law seemed at war with what Mayor Turner was saying, and Houston’s attempt to protect and provide safety for undocumented immigrants. Although it was said that undocumented immigrants could seek shelter without fear of immigration enforcement, the Trump Administration and border patrol posed threats to their road of recovery after Harvey had rolled through.