Following recent months of aggressive immigration enforcement by DHS, it may surprise some that it would announce a time-out in immigration enforcement. Yet, DHS properly did that when it announced today that it would cease enforcement operations in the Texas regions that are implementing mandatory evacuations in anticipation of Hurricane Ike’s arrival. In logically exercising its law enforcement discretion, DHS announced that there would be “no DHS immigration enforcement operations associated with evacuations and sheltering.” And this makes sense.

Law enforcement operations should ceded priority to evacuation efforts aimed at saving lives, as is the case with the instant mandatory evacuation orders. Rumors and fears had spread through the undocumented communities in these impacted areas that they could be subject to arrest by immigration agents and the border patrol while boarding buses and evacuating from the region. There were newspaper and community organization reports that people were remaining in the area and eschewing calls and offers of support from the state and local governments to evacuate the region immediately. Facing a potential situation of large populations of undocumented immigrants remaining in the path of a potentially devastating Category 3 hurricane and its ensuing flooding, DHS had to respond and take action to eliminate this potentially deadly scenario.

Kudos to DHS for making clear to the public, through both an English and a Spanish announcement, that undocumented immigrants in the impacted regions should put these fears aside and immediately evacuate from the region. In this instance, a time-out on immigration operations is the right thing to do.