NBC News captured the agony of a young mother trying to decide how best to protect her children in an interview just before hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday.
Iris lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with her three children, and cried on Thursday when asked what she planned to do when the storm came.
She and her family had been ordered to evacuate by officials, but she was not sure where to go since she is an undocumented immigrant and her children were terrified that ICE would separate them if they entered a shelter.
"The child asked me:" Mom, I'm very afraid that our house will be destroyed, and I do not want to go to a shelter because I do not want to be separated from you, "said Iris.
The girl later told her mother: "I'd rather die than separate from you."
Sad: Iris (above) is a mother of three children and an undocumented immigrant who lives in a mandatory evacuation zone near Wilmington, North Carolina.
Cover: I was afraid to go to a public shelter (one up in South Carolina on Friday) believing that ICE would be there and arrest her, separate her children and then deport the family
ICE had stated that it would not arrest people seeking refuge in Florence earlier in the week, but several immigrants do not trust that statement.
That fear dates back to Hurricane Harvey, with reports emerging weeks after the storm that ICE officials who had been helping to rebuild after the storm in Texas came back later to arrest undocumented people they had crossed with during their storms. efforts.
"I was worried that someone would say, 'If you go to shelters, you have to be careful,' someone told me they did not accept people who were not documented," said Iris, who felt pain in her face.
"But if they left, they would run the risk of being taken [from] there, and I did not want to take the risk with my kids.
His interview, during which a translator was present to interpret his comments, took place at the same time that a volunteer had come to try to convince Iris to go to the shelter.
That volunteer finally managed to convince Iris to seek refuge.
"It makes me feel better to know that this is not going to happen," said the mother.
"I am sure you are also parents, and you can imagine how you would feel if that happened."
Damage: his daughter had told him that he feared that his house would be destroyed, but he preferred to face death in his home than a possible separation (a tree in a nearby house in Wilmington)
ICE said in a statement that there will be no arrests in hurricane areas at this time, although it is unclear whether interactions with individuals and ICE officials could lead to arrests in the future, as occurred during Hurricane Harvey.
"Our highest priority remains the preservation of life and security," the department said in a statement.
& # 39; In consideration of these circumstances, there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or refuges related to Florence, except in the case of a serious threat to public safety & # 39;.