Rumors have been swirling of undocumented immigrants being afraid to evacuate to shelters from wildfire zones, in fear of being spotted by federal immigration officials.
Federal and local officials are assuring undocumented immigrants displaced by the fires, there is no reason to avoid the safety of a shelter over fear of being deported. Wine country, which has been devastated by the fires, is home to a large population of undocumented workers, many of whom speak limited English.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement Friday addressing the rumored fears saying the agency was "deeply concerned" about the wildfires.
ICE continued by stating the agency would suspend routine immigration enforcement in all areas affected by the fires, except in the event of a serious criminal presenting a public safety threat. ICE said it would be at evacuation centers, shelters, food banks or assistance centers. The agency did not state when regular enforcement would resume.
Sonoma County officials also reassured the fire-impacted communities via Twitter early Friday, immigration status would not be asked for during the wildfire emergency.
Rumor control re: access to shelters. We are open to everyone. No one is asking for immigration status at the shelters. pic.twitter.com/PVqEX4z1se— County of Sonoma (@CountyofSonoma) October 13, 2017
The statements come just days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making California a "sanctuary state", banning police from asking people about their immigration status or participating in federal immigration enforcement activities.
The law goes into effect on January 1, 2018.