NAPA (CBS SF) – Local and federal officials made reassurances to undocumented immigrants impacted by wildfires in wine country, saying that routine enforcement is not taking place.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a written statement that the agency is “deeply concerned” about the devastating wildfires, which have killed at least 31 people and have scorched nearly 200,000 acres as of Friday morning.
“In consideration of these distressing circumstances, ICE will continue to suspend routine immigration enforcement operations in the areas affected by the fires in northern California,” the agency said.
ICE said it would make an exception in the case of a “serious criminal presenting a public safety threat.”
The agency went onto say that enforcement would not be conducted at evacuation sites, shelters or food banks.
Belia Ramos, chair of the Napa County Board of Supervisors said the county would continue to be a welcoming place amid the disaster.
“Regardless of race, regardless of immigration status, regardless of age, sex, creed, sexual orientation, religion, you are welcome in our shelters. We want you to come in,” Ramos said.
“As long as we have mandatory evacuations, we are going to have shelters. And I will tell you that immigration is not a concern,” the supervisor went on to say.
Officials in Sonoma County issued a tweet early Friday morning to dispel rumors about possible immigration enforcement at evacuation centers, saying that while shelters may ask evacuees for identification, they are not asking for immigration status.
The reassurances come days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a “sanctuary state” bill that extends protections for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. The legislation goes into effect on January 1st.
Under the new legislation, police would be barred from asking people about their immigration status or participating in federal immigration activities. Also jail officials would only be allowed to transfer inmates to federal immigration authorities if convicted of certain.