Border Patrol Is Trying to Arrest Undocumented Immigrants Fleeing Hurricane Harvey

Texas leaders are calling on communities and residents to flee areas of the state as Hurricane Harvey approaches—“expected to be the worst to hit the state in nearly two decades” bringing “catastrophic” flooding—but it’s a Donald Trump-emboldened Customs and Border Protection that is only adding to the immediate threat to the lives of Texas families:

The United States Border Patrol said it is not planning to close its roadside immigration checkpoints north of the Rio Grande Valley unless there is a danger to travelers or its agents.

“Border Patrol checkpoints will not be closed unless there is a danger to the safety of the traveling public and our agents. Border Patrol resources, including personnel and transportation, will be deployed on an as needed basis to augment the efforts and capabilities of local-response authorities,” the agency said in a statement.

“We’re not going to impede anybody getting out of here, but at the same time we’re a law enforcement agency, so we still have to conduct our duties,” said CBP official Roberto Rodriguez.

But as reporter Julia Wick tweeted Thursday night, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and CBP “temporarily suspended enforcement measures during evacuations” in the midst of Hurricanes Matthew in 2016 and Isaac in 2012. What CBP is doing today is directly impeding public safety and threatening lives by making immigrants so fearful of being asked for papers in the midst of a natural disaster, that they refuse to flee their homes. This is Trumpism at its worst, and deadliest.

If this results in lost lives, that’s on the hands of federal immigration officials and those who embolden them. “Safety should be a priority regardless of immigration status,” said the American Civil Liberties Union’s Astrid Dominguez. “This is very concerning for the community. It sends a wrong message.”


The New York Times report details the very different reaction from federal immigration agents in 2012:

message from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol has been posted on the D.H.S. Web site, distributed within the agencies and sent — in English, Spanish and Vietnamese — to more than 1,000 local organizations that deal with immigrants.

It states that “there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to Isaac, including the use of checkpoints for immigration enforcement purposes in impacted areas during an evacuation.” It goes on to tell state and local law enforcement agencies that if they are holding people in custody at the request of ICE or the Border Patrol – people who would otherwise be released because of the storm —  they should let them go, after giving the feds a heads-up first.

The Texas Tribune on Harvey’s expected path of destruction:

As of Thursday afternoon, Southeast Texas and the state’s coastal bend regions were expected to be the hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey. But the Rio Grande Valley and its surrounding areas are also bracing for possible severe flooding or worse if the path of the storm shifts. As of Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service said the threat to life and property for Brownsville and the surrounding areas was high and that “Emergency plans should include a reasonable threat for hurricane force wind of 74 to 110 mph of equivalent Category 1 to 2 intensity.”

The Border Patrol’s decision comes the same day Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez issued a disaster declaration for the city and activated its emergency operations center.

“This disgusting move by [CBP] breaks past practice of closing checkpoints during natural disasters,” tweeted the ACLU, “putting undocumented families in grave danger.”

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