Congressman Jared Huffman

Representing the 2nd District of California

Rep. Huffman Seeks Assurance from FEMA: Eligible Fire Victims Should Be Able to Seek Aid Without Fear of Immigration Targeting

Oct 26, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C.- After hearing that some eligible applicants are going without federal assistance in the wake of October’s wildfire disaster because of concerns they might expose family members and others to deportation, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) today led a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asking for clarification on the agency’s immigration policies.

Today’s letter from five California congressmen, who represent districts impacted by wildfires, requests confirmation from FEMA Administrator Brock Long that the verification process for eligible applicants will not be used to seek the immigration status of their neighbors, family members, or other household members, and an explanation of any conditions FEMA may have for sharing personal identifying information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“We have heard from constituents who are eligible for aid — U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals, and qualified aliens — but are concerned that applying for FEMA assistance might expose their family members or neighbors to immigration enforcement,” wrote the lawmakers. “It is our understanding that FEMA does not gather information about immigration status for non-applicants, and we are hopeful that you can provide assurance that the verification process for eligible applicants will not be used to seek the immigration status of their neighbors, family members, or other household members.”

The letter does not seek to expand the definition of who is eligible for aid, and FEMA has assured Rep. Huffman’s office that they do not collect immigration information from those registering for assistance. However, he and other lawmakers continue to hear concerns from constituents that the verification process, even for legally eligible applicants, may provide information to ICE about others. For example, submitting an application on behalf of a U.S. citizen child, who is eligible for aid but whose siblings are not, might inadvertently reveal the immigration status of family members if the application describes the number of people in the household.

In addition to Rep. Huffman, the letter was signed by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Salud O. Carbajal (D-CA).

Rep. Huffman previously announced a temporary suspension of ICE enforcement during the height of the wildfire crisis.

 

The full text of the letter can be found below:

 

Dear Administrator Long:

Thank you for your agency’s swift response to the wildfires in California, and for your commitment to supporting our communities as they rebuild.

As we shift to long-term support for those affected by the disaster, we write to seek your assurance so that everyone who is legally entitled to federal aid will feel safe to apply for it. We have heard from constituents who are eligible for aid — U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals, and qualified aliens — but are concerned that applying for FEMA assistance might expose their family members or neighbors to immigration enforcement.

As you know, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced during the height of the crisis that routine immigration enforcement would be suspended in the affected areas, so that people could protect their lives without regard to immigration status. It is our understanding that FEMA does not gather information about immigration status for non-applicants, and we are hopeful that you can provide assurance that the verification process for eligible applicants will not be used to seek the immigration status of their neighbors, family members, or other household members. In light of our constituents’ concerns, we would also appreciate an explanation of any process that might lead to information sharing between FEMA and ICE.

Thank you for your attention to our request, and for you continued support of our region’s rebuilding efforts.

Sincerely,

 

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