Partly Cloudy / Windy
People with outstanding warrants who seek shelter from Hurricane Irma in Polk County, Florida, may not be sheltered from arrest.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office said in a series of tweets Wednesday that law enforcement officers will check IDs at every emergency shelter.
And one tweet warned, "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."
Two of the tweets specifically mentioned "sex offenders and predators" would be barred from public shelters. But the other tweets referenced people with warrants of any kind.
That got the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. The organization said the sheriff was "exploiting a natural disaster" and noted most outstanding warrants are for low-level and nonviolent offenses.
It added in a statement, "This will endanger not only the lives of those who avoid shelters, but also the lives of the first responders under Sheriff Judd's charge who will have to rescue the people he just told to stay in harm's way."
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd later defended the move as a way to keep people safe. In a Facebook message, he wrote: "We have a legal obligation to take that person into custody. It is what the law dictates."
But federal officials are taking a different route. The Department of Homeland Security says it will not use shelters to catch undocumented immigrants. That's the same approach they took with Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
The announcement comes as Florida braces for Hurricane Irma. The Category 5 storm is projected to reach the state Sunday morning.