The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Wednesday that the agency will not carry out immigration enforcement operations in areas hit by Hurricane Irma in an effort to encourage undocumented immigrants to seek help without fear of reprisal.

“DHS will not conduct non-criminal immigration enforcement operations in the affected area,” the agency said in a statement.

“At the request of [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], local and state authorities, DHS law enforcement personnel will be in the affected area to conduct search and rescue, air traffic de-confliction and public safety missions,” according to the statement. “When it comes to rescuing people in the wake of Hurricane Irma, immigration status is not and will not be a factor.”

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