Following recent wildfires in the Southwest and Midwest of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a press release on April 28, 2022, to remind the public that sites that provide emergency response and relief are considered “protected areas.” DHS said this means that “to the fullest extent possible,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “do not conduct immigration enforcement activities at protected areas such as along evacuation routes, sites used for sheltering or the distribution of emergency supplies, food or water, or registration sites for disaster-related assistance or the reunification of families and loved ones.”
DHS noted that at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or local and state authorities, ICE and CBP may help conduct search and rescue, air traffic de-confliction, and public safety missions. ICE and CBP provide emergency assistance to individuals regardless of their immigration status, DHS said. “DHS officials do not and will not pose as individuals providing emergency-related information as part of any enforcement activities.”
DHS said it is aware that some survivors may fear applying for FEMA assistance due to their immigration status. “If you or a member of your household applies for FEMA assistance, FEMA does not collect information regarding your immigration status and does not proactively provide your personal information to ICE or CBP for immigration enforcement. However, in rare circumstances, based on a specific request, ICE or CBP could request this information if you are a current threat to national security or public safety because you pose an articulable risk of death, violence, or physical harm to any person,” DHS said.
DHS said it “is committed to ensuring that every individual who seeks shelter, aid, or other assistance as a result of the wildfires is able to do so regardless of their immigration status.”