ICE won’t arrest or detain evacuees in the Carolinas escaping from Hurricane Florence

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Immigrants in North Carolina and South Carolina shouldn’t worry about being arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as they evacuate their homes or at the emergency shelters, an ICE spokesperson said Wednesday.

Bryan Cox, spokesperson for ICE in the southern region, said everyone should follow local evacuation orders during Hurricane Florence.

“Our highest priority remains the preservation of life and safety,” Cox said in an email. “In consideration of these circumstances, there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to Florence, except in the event of a serious public safety threat.”

Hurricane Florence has forced more than 1 million residents in the Carolinas and Virginia to evacuate their homes.

By Thursday afternoon, at least 13,000 people had filled North Carolina shelters, said a spokesperson for North Carolina’s Emergency Management Division.

In South Carolina, there were 4,350 evacuees registered in the 61 shelters open in South Carolina, said Thom Berry, a South Carolina emergency management spokesperson.

The storm is expected to make landfall on North Carolina’s southern coast sometime Thursday night or early Friday morning. The storm is expected to dump as much as 40 inches of rain in some isolated areas of the Carolinas. The outer wind bands of the storm began hitting the Carolinas coast early Thursday.

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Evacuees seeking emergency shelter in North Carolina are not required to show identification for assistance, said Ryan Hill, spokesperson for North Carolina’s Emergency Response Team.

Most of the emergency shelters in South Carolina are requiring identification to keep track of how many people are seeking assistance, Berry said.

The shelters are accepting any type of photo identification and are not turning people away based on immigration status, Berry said.