North Bay woman helps displaced immigrants fearing deportation

- At least a dozen immigrant families, and likely more, are living in car and tent encampments in the North Bay, according to Erin Gomez. Gomez is a volunteer helping these victims. She told KTVU these groups are avoiding evacuation centers fearing deportation because workers at these centers often ask for personal information.

“We’re in a very political climate right now where immigrants are villainized. I think the community needs to remember this is a humanitarian effort. There is no political platform, no judgement,” Gomez said from her Santa Rosa home that’s filled with donations.

On Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement saying, “In consideration of these distressing circumstance, ICE will continue to suspend routine immigration enforcement operation in the areas affected by the fires in Northern California, except in the event of a serious criminal presenting a public safety threat.”

Gomez said there is a lot of misinformation among displaced immigrant communities.

“We want to go out and convince them that they are safe and that shelters are places of sanctuary,” she said.

ICE says enforcement will not be conducted at evacuation sites, or assistance centers such as shelter or food banks. Still, many are nervous, according to Gomez.

Gomez has partnered with volunteers in Oakland and other areas of the East Bay to collect donations from displaced immigrant families. Laura Padilla and Angelica Gomez are two of them.

“We want [them] to know you are not alone. That it’s not like the things you lost, but these are some things we are offering you,” said Padilla.

For information on how you can help or receive assistance, Erin Gomez has created a Facebook page titled Fire Victims Not in Evacuation Centers. 

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