A Florida sheriff has drawn criticism for threatening to detain people seeking shelter as Hurricane Irma makes landfall. Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida tweeted the messages from his official Twitter account yesterday and threatened to escort those with outstanding arrest warrants to “another safe and secure shelter” – the Polk County Jail.
The ACLU of Florida called the Sheriff’s plan exploitative and drew comparisons to Joe Arpaio, the Arizona Sheriff declared in contempt of court for refusing to halt traffic stops that targeted people police suspected of being undocumented. The ACLU notes that “most people with outstanding arrest warrants are dealing with low-level and nonviolent offenses and pose no risk to others in a shelter.” The organization also clarified the root of the issue: Sheriff Judd would like people to choose between going to jail for traffic tickets and taking shelter from one of the strongest recorded hurricanes in history.
Particularly worrisome is that Polk County is said to be home to an estimated 18,000 undocumented immigrants. Identification will be required to enter the shelters, and undocumented men, women, and children will have to choose between taking shelter or being detained and possibly deported. Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, the Department of Homeland Security announced that its agents would not be deporting those seeking help and urged all residents to take shelter, according to NPR. It has since been reported that many of our undocumented avoided help out of fear and are now among some of the most devastated by the storm as those without legal status do not qualify for FEMA assistance.
In Polk County, the local authorities have given residents the exact opposite of reassurance. Sheriff Judd’s statement can and will lead to loss of life. What does it mean when those in power value policy over human life?
Image Source: Slate