Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports that people are pretending to work for the agency and telling people in Texas to evacuate their homes in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, possibly in order to burglarize their homes once they’re empty. The federal agency says it’s not conducting immigration enforcement activity in the affected area while relief efforts are taking place.
Yesterday, emergency management officials warned about fake emergency workers charging for their services and began tamping down on rumors that immigration officers were detaining people at shelters. The mayor of Houston—which is home to over half a million undocumented immigrants—even vowed to personally defend any of those residents from immigration action.
— ICE (@ICEgov) August 30, 2017
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo says would-be burglars are also impersonating local police, Reuters reports. Mayor Sylvester Turner has ordered a curfew in the city, telling people to stay off the streets between midnight and 5 a.m. to deter criminals.
At least 14 looters have already been arrested in the affected area, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg reports. Anyone committing crime in a declared disaster area in Texas can face heightened penalties, with home burglars facing jail sentences of five years to life in prison.
“People displaced or harmed in this storm are not going to be easy prey,” Ogg said in a statement posted to Twitter.
To volunteer or donate to relief efforts, visit the National Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster and see a list of other organizations here.