GROUP SAYS KEEPING ALL FLORIDIANS SAFE SHOULD BE KEY FOCUS
Fort Lauderdale, FL—As the State of Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma, the NAACP is concerned that the Polk County Sheriff’s Office is scaring people away from safe shelter by saying that individuals with outstanding warrants will be arrested if they arrive at a shelter. Shelters in the State of Florida should learn from Texas’s experience where individuals have been too scared of arrest or deportation to seek shelter or services. Miami-Dade County has set an important example by explicitly stating that immigration enforcement will not take place in local shelters.
Coupling law enforcement or deportation with the provision of life-saving aid is a cruel and unnecessary distraction from the essential work of ensuring that all Floridians weather the storm safely. It is much more important to send the message that all are welcome at shelters than it is to arrest someone who may have a warrant for forgetting a court date. Instead of spending scarce resources putting more people in jail, local and state law enforcement should focus on assisting with disaster relief.
Law enforcement officials and corrections staff also must ensure the safety of those who are already incarcerated in jails or prisons, including planning for orderly evacuations. Due to Hurricane Harvey, some Texas prisoners remained in place during severe flooding and are enduring the aftermath of the hurricane with limited water and harrowing conditions. Officials in the State of Florida should learn from this experience and immediately take steps to protect incarcerated individuals.