Bossert said undocumented immigrants would not be "rounded up" at shelters
"Anybody needing food, water or shelter is going to get it," he said
The White House on Thursday sought to reassure undocumented immigrants in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey that they would not face immigration screening at shelters or during life-saving operations – unless they’ve committed a crime.
But at the same time, President Donald Trump’s top homeland security aide warned that undocumented immigrants who have been displaced by the storm were not likely to receive substantial amounts of federal aid.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of benefits going out to illegal immigrants in terms of the American taxpayer,” said Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser.
Bossert said undocumented immigrants would not be “rounded up” at shelters, but that the administration would continue to target undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes since arriving in the US.
“Anybody needing food, water or shelter is going to get it. Anybody that’s here illegally that subsequently committed a crime is going to get caught and thrown out,” Bossert said.
Bossert’s comments were the latest attempt by state and local officials to reassure undocumented immigrants fleeing their homes in the wake of Harvey that they should not fear deportation if they head to shelters. Many of those fears were sparked by the Trump administration’s more aggressive posture on deportations, relaxing guidelines on immigration offices who were tasked to only prioritize violent criminals under the Obama administration.
“In terms of immediate life-saving, no individual human being should worry about their immigraiton status unless they’ve committed a crime,” Bossert said. “We won’t go start rounding people up when they up (at shelters).”
But Bossert also avoided stepping away from the administration’s tough line on illegal immigration, stressing that undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes are “going to be rounded up.”
“If you’re an immigrant that has committed a crime, you’re going to be removed,” Bossert said.
Bossert’s comments also came as Trump is nearing a decision on DACA, the deferred action program that granted temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.
Bossert and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump is still reviewing the policy.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.