As Hurricane Harvey – a Category 2 storm– intensifies in the Gulf of Mexico, Texans are preparing for what, meteorologists say, could bring “life-threatening” amounts of rain. On Thursday night as torrential rain fell, residents filled the highway to head north to safety, according to CNN. But even as forecasts predict Hurricane Harvey will become a Category 3, bring winds of 111 mph winds to middle Texas coast by Friday night and 15 to 20 inches (and as much as 35 inches in some areas) of rainfall, the United States Border Patrol announced it won’t shut down its roadside immigrant checkpoints north of the Rio Grande Valley.
“Border Patrol checkpoints will not be closed unless there is danger to the safety of the traveling public and our agents,” the agency said, according to the Texas Tribune. “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.”
Customs and Border Patrol public affairs officer Roberto Rodriguez said the agency’s decision to keep checkpoints open won’t interfere with public safety. “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.”
The storm’s set to hit Southeast Texas and the coast bend areas the hardest. However, the Rio Grande Valley isn’t out of harm’s way. For undocumented immigrants, this means staying at home and braving the storm or leaving and risking arrest. According to Splinter News, in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew, the agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement saying checkpoints were closed. The memo read, “There will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to [Hurricane] Matthew, including the use of checkpoints for immigration enforcement purposes in impacted areas during an evacuation.”
People have come out to critique CBP for its decision:
Good grief. Must undocumented people risk deportation to avoid Hurricane Harvey? What a mess.
— Sandra Savickas, MSW (@NalaTheSleeze) August 25, 2017
Why would the border patrol put people in harms way, What kind of F'ing government do we have. This is cruel and should nevert happen.
— White Wolf (@lovo_blanco1) August 25, 2017
Be sure to round up "your tired, your hungry, your huddled masses trying to escape a huge hurricane" that just sings compassion right?
— Brad Gilbert (@BGhimself) August 25, 2017
That's kind of irresponsible, they're slowing evacuation and risking everyone's lives.
— HudsonRiverCroc (@HudsonRiverCroc) August 25, 2017
Texas is refusing to close Customs and Border Patrol checkpoints during #HurricaneHarvey, putting undocumented families in grave danger.
— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 25, 2017
BuzzFeed News’ Adolfo Flores also spoke CBP:
CBP told me "we’ll continue to monitor the conditions on the ground" in respect to keeping the checkpoints open.
— Adolfo Flores (@aflores) August 25, 2017