After heeding the Bush administration’s call to seek help regardless of status, a handful of undocumented immigrants who fled Hurricane Katrina have been ordered to appear for deportation hearings last month.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Homeland Security Department encouraged all storm victims, including undocumented immigrants, to seek help. The appeal was made in English and Spanish.

One man, who was given shelter at the Judson F. Williams Convention Center in El Paso, Texas, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “He was laying on his cot (in the convention center) and his name was called out. He went to the man with the bullhorn and was met by ICE agents,” said Ouisa Davis, executive director of the Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services and the man’s attorney.

ICE officials claim the man and two companions wanted to travel out of El Paso by bus and were afraid of being found out at the Border Patrol checkpoints. ICE officials said they scheduled an appointment at the ICE offices to discuss their situation.

But Davis said the arrested man “had no idea what was going on. He was scared to death. He didn’t seek their help, and he didn’t have any plans to travel.”

The White House was “actively communicating to us and the Spanish-language press that everyone could come forward,” said Cecilia Munoz, vice president of policy for the National Council of La Raza, the largest U.S.-based Hispanic advocacy group.

“Since federal authorities are using the catastrophe of Katrina as an enforcement opportunity, it creates a moral dilemma in how to advise our constituents,” said Munoz.

Vivian Weinstein and Kenyatta Washington contributed to this story.

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