U.S. reduces immigration enforcement during California wildfires

(Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. government says there will be no enforcement of immigration laws during California wildfire evacuations and relief efforts unless holding back on detaining someone would pose a serious public safety threat.

The Department of Homeland Security said Friday in a statement that agents and officers will scale back immigration enforcement to help save lives and keep people safe. It has made similar announcements during hurricanes and other major natural disasters.

"Our highest priority remains the preservation of life and safety. In consideration of these circumstances, there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to the wildfires," the department said. 

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies are both part of Homeland Security and often assist during natural disasters. The sight of uniformed officers can frighten people in the country illegally and deter them from seeking help.

Pew Research Center estimates that 2.2 million California residents are in the United States illegally, the highest of any state by far.