A Florida county sheriff announced that not all those seeking refuge during Hurricane Irma will be accepted in shelters.
“If you go to a shelter for #Irma and you have a warrant, we’ll gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judge posted on Twitter Wednesday.
Hurricane Irma is a Category 5 Storm that has already reportedly killed at least nine people in the northern Caribbean Islands, CNN reported this morning.
And according to weather.com, “Irma has been a Category 5 hurricane for more than a day and a half, which ranks it as the 7th longest lasting Category 5 in the Atlantic basin, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach. Irma could take a run at the longest lasting Category 5 hurricane by Friday.”
Twitter users immediately responded to the sheriff’s comments, pointing out that those with outstanding warrants for minor offenses — such as parking tickets — will be turned away. Also of concern among many is the fate of undocumented immigrants living in Polk County.
According to Data USA, 94.2 percent of Polk County residents are United States citizens — a slight decrease from the prior year’s rate, 94.4 percent. The Hispanic population in the county is on the rise, going from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 17.8 percent in 2016, U.S. Census Data shows.
Judd doubled down on his comments later, reporting to Fox 13 News that the Sheriff’s Office was providing a “warning” four or five days in advance so those with outstanding minor warrants could turn themselves in.
“Never before did I think that we’d be beat up for giving people a warning and keeping people safe — but hey, that’s OK,” he said to the outlet.
“It’s important to understand, if you’re a sexual predator, and a sexual offender, we’re not going to let you sleep next to any five- or six- or seven-year-old babies,” Judd also said.
But according to Carrie Horstman, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, the warrant that determines whether someone receives shelter could be for any level offense. She told the Orlando Sentinel that officers will not be able to see what the crime warrant is for at the time people are seeking shelter.
Horstman also told the Sentinel that undocumented immigrants will not be impacted by the policy. However, she reported to the New York Times that those seeking shelter would be required to provide personal information.
“It is normal protocol to have an accountability log and to know the names of each person going in,” she said to the Times. “We need to know who is in there.”
Following President Donald Trump’s decision to put an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, undocumented immigrants already fear information they voluntarily provided to the government will now be used to deport them. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Sept. 5 that “information provided in DACA requests will not be proactively provided to other law enforcement entities,” such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but also added that the policy “may be modified, superseded, or rescinded at any time without notice.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) weighed in, saying that Sheriff Judd is “exploiting a natural disaster.”
Meanwhile, Sheriff Judd has a history of a “tough on crime” attitude and particularly focuses on undocumented immigrants committing crimes.
He has drawn comparisons to former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt after violating a court order that instructed him to stop racially profiling Latino motorists. Trump pardoned the ex-sheriff last month.
At the time, Judd told ABC Action News that he was not personally familiar with Arpaio’s case but said that Trump pardoned him simply for a misdemeanor, suggesting the pardon was in fact justified.
“My initial reaction is, that was a misdemeanor that President Trump pardoned him for, while President Obama pardoned hundreds and commuted the sentence of hundreds of hardcore drug dealers and use guns in the commission of a felony. So when you look at one president that pardons hardcore felon drug dealers using guns, and the other president, Trump, pardoning a sheriff for a misdemeanor?”
(In total, former President Barack Obama commuted 1,715 sentences, which is significantly higher than presidents in recent history. However, he pardoned only 212 people, which is average or relatively low when compared to his recent predecessors. Of all his requests for pardons he only granted 6.2 percent. Former President George W. Bush granted 7.6 percent of requests for pardons. Meanwhile, former President George H.W. Bush granted 10.1 percent of requests. Former President Bill Clinton’s rate was lower, at roughly 3.1 percent.)