Houston Mayor Vows To Personally Defend Illegal Immigrants Seeking Aid After Harvey


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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that illegal immigrants have no reason to fear deportation if they seek disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Turner, a graduate of Harvard law school, even offered to personally defend anybody who might find himself in deportation proceedings as a result of coming into contact with emergency management officials.

“There is absolutely no reason why anyone should not call. And I and others will be the first ones to stand up with you,” Turner told reporters on Monday, according to ABC News. “If someone comes and they require help and then for some reason [someone] tries to deport them, I will represent them myself.”

As emergency management officials from municipal, state and federal agencies descended on Houston to co-ordinate relief efforts across Southeast Texas, many community leaders feared that illegal immigrants would not seek help for fear of being detained by immigration authorities. The city of Houston on Monday night moved to dispel widespread rumors that shelters and other disaster assistance providers are asking for immigration documents.

“We will not ask for immigration status or papers from anyone at any shelter,” the city said in a tweet. “This rumor is FALSE!”

Houston is one of Texas’ cities currently suing the state over SB4, an immigration enforcement bill widely regarded as the toughest statewide anti-sanctuary city law in the nation. The measure is set to go into effect on Sept. 1, though a federal judge in San Antonio is reviewing the law and could block it in a ruling expected later this week.

Sylvester urged illegal immigrants in Houston to seek hurricane relief no matter what happens with the SB4 lawsuit.

“I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what your status is. I do not want you to risk losing your life or [that of] a family member because you’re concerned about SB 4 or anything else,” Turner said. “Put SB4 on the shelf right now.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, a key supporter of SB4, said Friday that people seeking shelter from Harvey and subsequent flooding would not have to provide citizenship documents.

“That will not be an issue,” Abbott told MSNBC, saying this was his understanding based on instructions from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “What everyone is focused on right now is doing all we can to protect life.”

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