Donald Trump’s administration has taken advantage of Hurricane Harvey and set up checkpoints and major exit routes where they will check papers of fleeing families in the hope of detaining and deporting undocumented families.
According to reports by Quartz media, Border Patrol checkpoints, which check individuals’ documents to make sure they are legal residents of the US, will stay open as the storm approaches, the Customs and Border Protection agency said Friday in an emailed statement seen by Quartz.
Normally, in times of crisis and especially natural calamities like hurricanes, floods, wild fires and earth quakes, checking survivors for documentation is always suspended as all focus is on minimising the loss of life and property in the disaster.
In such major evacuations, it’s mostly Police and the army that work to keep the peace and maintain order. Border Patrol and customs would naturally be out of place.
Also, checking for undocumented families and threatening them with deportation can lead to a direct loss of lives as some undocumented families may stay in hiding, failing to take advantage of a chance to flee hence being swept away by the storms.
In previous storms, including Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Isaac in 2012, the border patrol agency temporarily suspended its enforcement procedures.
Civil rights activists said the new policy was cruel. It also could result in avoidable fatalities, if some families with illegal immigrant members choose not to evacuate the storm zone.
It is unknown what procedures Border Patrol will use to check the high numbers of people fleeing or if they will simply use racial profiling and only check people of colour.
“This is a disgusting move from the Border Patrol that breaks with past practices,” American Civil Liberties Union director of immigration policy and campaigns Lorella Praeli said. “The Border Patrol should never keep checkpoints open during any natural disasters in the United States. Everyone, no matter the color of their skin or background, is worth saving.”
Hurricane Harvey has already made landfall and it is unknown how many undocumented people fleeing the storm have already been detained by Border Patrol.