WASHINGTON, DC – In the aftermath of Katrina, immigrant communities in the Gulf Coast remain afraid to seek much needed emergency relief, and news reports have indicated that immigrants are being placed in deportation proceedings after seeking assistance. As a second hurricane approaches the area, Senate Democrats are sending a letter to Secretary Michael Chertoff to request again that the Department of Homeland Security issue assurances that all individuals in the path of Rita may seek relief without fear that their names will be turned over to federal authorities for immigration enforcement purposes.
The text of the letter is below:
September 22, 2005
The Honorable Michael Chertoff
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Chertoff:
As you know, we sent you a letter, dated September 14, strongly urging that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issue a formal statement reassuring immigrants victimized by Hurricane Katrina that they may seek help from relief agencies without fear that the federal government will seek to deport them.
To date, we have not received a response to our letter. In fact, we were surprised and troubled to learn that DHS has placed some individuals in deportation proceedings after these individuals sought assistance, despite the fact that the government had previously encouraged all storm victims to come forward to seek help.
As Hurricane Rita approaches the Gulf Coast, we write with new urgency to request again that DHS issue assurances that all individuals in the path of this dangerous storm may seek relief without fear that their names will be turned over to federal authorities for immigration enforcement purposes. Particularly given the widely publicized reports that DHS will deport some immigrant victims of Katrina who sought assistance, we believe such a public assurance is crucial. Some in the Gulf Coast’s immigrant communities will no doubt be too afraid to seek assistance as they evacuate or look for shelter if they believe they might be deported as a result. For many, this could be a matter of life and death.
We hope that you will act expeditiously to assure clearly and publicly all those in the path of the storm that they may seek shelter and other assistance without fear. We also urge you to exercise your discretion to terminate removal proceedings against those individuals who were placed in proceedings after they sought assistance.
Harry M. Reid, Democratic Leader
Richard Durbin, Assistant Democratic Leader
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Edward M. Kennedy
Patrick J. Leahy
Jon S. Corzine
Frank R. Lautenberg
Christopher J. Dodd
John F. Kerry