As residents of Southeast Texas evacuate under strict orders in preparation for the rapidly-approaching Hurricane Harvey, members of the area's immigrant community are being left with an impossible choice on Friday: face the potentially life-threatening storm or follow evacuation orders and risk being detained and even deported.
Border Patrol officials said late Thursday they were not planning to close roadside immigration checkpoints north of the affected area as tens of thousands made their way out of several coastal counties, where Harvey was expected to make landfall by early Saturday.
"Undocumented Texans face checkpoints if they flee Hurricane Harvey. Despicable and inhumane."—@Helene0555
"Border Patrol checkpoints will not be closed unless there is a danger to the safety of the traveling public and our agents," said the Customs and Border Protection agency in a statement. "The Border Patrol is a law enforcement agency and we will not abandon our law enforcement duties."
Contrary to CBP's suggestion that keeping the checkpoints open is standard operating procedure, however, roadside checkpoints were closed during evacuations from Hurricane Isaac in 2012 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Immigration officials released statements two days before each hurricane made landfall, informing residents that they were temporarily suspending "immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering...including the use of checkpoints for immigration enforcement purposes."
The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the federal government's decision to continue Border Patrol operations while instructing community members to leave coastal areas.
"Safety should be a priority regardless of immigration status," said ACLU policy strategist Astrid Dominguez. "This is very concerning for the community. It sends a wrong message."
Others took to social media to express shock and outrage at the decision that the area's undocumented immigrants, who number around 575,000 just in the Houston metropolitan area, were being forced to make by the Trump administration's border patrol agency.
This is positively evil. Undocumented Texans face checkpoints if they flee Hurricane Harvey. Despicable and inhumane. https://t.co/crYUgYK6Xl— Anonymous Resister (@Helene0555) August 25, 2017
They are telling undocumented persons that they have to stay in the hurricane path or face deportation. Treating people as subhuman. https://t.co/YqgTyCVF6R— Dave (@atqdave) August 25, 2017