WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2008 -- After being contacted by a number of churches in the New Orleans area about fears among the illegal immigrant community that evacuating might lead to trouble with the law, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are trying to get the word out that they are not conducting any immigration enforcement during the evacuation.
According to ICE officials, churches are reporting that many in the immigrant community are reluctant to board evacuation busses, worried that they will be asked for documentation or even be arrested.
ICE spokesperson Kelly Nantel tells ABC News that "There are no immigration enforcement operations, and there are no immigration enforcement checkpoints associated with the evacuations. "
"The Department of Homeland Security's top priorities in any emergency are life-saving and life-sustaining activities. We want to ensure the safe and swift evacuation of all individuals in the affected region," Nantel added.
ICE is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
ICE personnel are preparing to assist with rescue and recovery efforts after the storm passes.
Just last week in Laurel, Miss., ICE conducted the largest single worksite enforcement action in the agency's history, detaining 595 suspected illegal immigrants at a manufacturing plant.