This just blows my mind and makes me sick to my stomach.
Hurricane season starts June 1. In the event of a hurricane in the region, emergency officials predict more than 130,000 evacuees will leave the Valley by school bus. They will be checked for identification and citizenship before they can board.
Anyone who is not a citizen or is not a legal resident will be held in specially designed areas in the Valley that are “made to withstand hurricanes,” said Dan Doty, a Border Patrol spokesperson for the Valley sector…By pre-screening evacuees before they board the buses, there will be less of a bottleneck at the Falfurrias checkpoint. […]
Border Patrol agents could be seen checking the identification and citizenship of the mock evacuees, many of whom were senior citizens from the Las Palmas Community Center. After Guardian reporter started taking pictures of this part of the exercise, he was asked to stop and leave the area. […]
“By no means do we want to stop somebody from safely evacuating but we do, and we will do our job while we assist,” Doty said. “We check for citizenship, (and) with our agents it does not take long. It’s a very quick process.”
Agents are very good at picking up on things that would lead them to believe somebody isn’t a U.S. citizen or does not have legal residence, Doty said….“We would not put someone’s life in jeopardy, but at the same time we would do our job, we would take them into custody, and we do have safe places for processing and detention during times of a hurricane.”
Highway 281 is the designated hurricane evacuation route and the Border Patrol checkpoint for the highway is at Falfurrias, in Brooks County. Highway 77 is slated to be closed in the event of a hurricane headed for deep South Texas. Doty said all citizens leaving the Valley by bus would be prescreened as part of Border Patrol’s enforcement efforts in the region to prevent a backup of traffic at the checkpoint.
In the event of a hurricane evacuation from the Valley, emergency management officials will designate both sides of Hwy 281 for northbound traffic only, Doty said. In addition, more Border Patrol agents will be added at the Falfurrias checkpoint to help facilitate the free-flow traffic, he said. […]
The Health Department determined whether evacuees could withstand a long bus ride to safety if a hurricane threatened. The military then followed through with the evacuation procedure.
Officials are shooting for a tentative 30-minute window from arrival at an emergency holding post, through processing, and to final evacuation by bus. Each bus would carry about 50 to 60 people, according to Health Department officials. […]
CBP has always resisted answering media questions about whether the Falfurrias checkpoint would remain open in the event of a mass evacuation from the Valley. Asked if he knew what the answer is, Hidalgo County Emergency Management Coordinator Tony Peña said: “It is expected that they (CBP) have to do their job, but how they will accomplish that I don’t have an answer for that.”
I do realize the Border Patrol has a job to do, however much I disagree with current immigration laws and their apprehension methods. However.
There’s just sooooooo many things that are fucked up about this.
First of course is that it’s an outright “fuck you” to humanitarianism. I’m a Valley native, and I’ve always thought that if we got hit by a hurricane, thousands of people would be soooooooo fucked. It’s an area full of extreme poverty (it has two of the poorest counties in the nation), and the lack of access to transportation alone would automatically screw over a whole bunch of people, especially those who live in colonias; at times, even heavy a rainfall–not tropical storm, not hurricane, just pain rain–will flood the dirt roads to the point where school buses can’t even go through. Yes, a lot of undocumented citizens live in these areas, but a lot of U.S. citizens do, too.
Second, it’s a good 3 1/2 hour drive out of the RGV to the next metropolitain area, be it San Antonio or Laredo. Highway 77 goes along the coast, so that’s probably not the safest evacuation route. I’ve been caught out in a heavy storm (again, not hurricane, not tropical storm, just rain) on the Highway 281 stretch going to San Antonio, and there was all kinds of flooding that we had to do an insane amount of detouring that took us out to the sticks. With a hurricane, I can only imagine the nightmare of flooding on certain parts of that route.
Add the evacuation and panic of 4 counties to all this, PLUS doing checks for citizenship, and I can just imagine all hell breaking loose.
What if a person forgets to bring their driver’s license or birth certificate in the rush, and they decide you’re not a citizen? Are they going to throw you in a detention center and try to sort everything out later while you’re forced to ride out the hurricane in jail? I’ve been stopped by the Border Patrol before, and I’m a citizen, born and raised. There’s no doubt in my mind they would’ve tried to keep my brother and I there if we hadn’t both had our licenses on us, even though it we weren’t even crossing over from Mexico (we were at the checkpoint about an hour away from Big Bend National Park). Even with our licenses, the Border Patrol agents were reluctantly saying to each other, “Well I guess there’s nothing we can do (about holding us there).” WTF? No shit there’s nothing you can do.
There are bigger issues to address (like helping the poor people not get fucked over Katrina-style), other than “how can we catch those illegalz as they try to escape the wrath of nature?” If anything, this is going to encourage people wait out any storms that come along this hurricane season.