U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is deploying staff and equipment for search and rescue efforts and to work at local, state, and federal emergency operations centers in Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey.
Hurricane Harvey hit Texas just as the state’s plan to outlaw sanctuary cities is about to go into effect. Texas also has joined other states in threatening to sue President Donald Trump if he does not phase out DACA starting on September 5th.
Some of Houston’s more than 500,000 undocumented immigrants reportedly are afraid to seek shelter, fearing deportation.
To encourage undocumented workers in need of assistance to come into shelters, FEMA issued a statement, “Hurricane Harvey Rumor Control,” asking “all persons to follow the guidance of local officials and seek shelter regardless of their immigration status.”
ICE and CBP explained that:
It is not conducting immigration enforcement at relief sites such as shelters or food banks. In the rare instance where local law enforcement informs ICE of a serious criminal alien at a relief site that presents a public safety threat, ICE will make a determination on a case-by-case basis about the appropriate enforcement actions.
In an effort to assuage fears, the Mayor of Houston has offered to personally represent any individual facing deportation after seeking disaster relief.
In the meantime:
- 50 CBP agents are staffing a U.S. Coast Guard Emergency Operations Center in Robstown, Texas
- CBP is providing assistance to border patrol agents in Corpus Christi
- CBP aircraft from Tucson are in Texas, along with 12 aircrew members, 5 support personnel and 3 agents certified in swift-water rescues
- CBP’s Air and Marine Operations sent 4 hoist-capable Blackhawks to Houston to help with rescues
- 50 Tucson area Special Operations Detachments agents are supporting public safety operations
Once the immediate danger subsides, workers will be needed to participate in the billion-dollar rebuilding effort. “Eduardo Canales, director of the South Texas Human Rights Center, said the state is at risk of losing much-needed low-wage workers – cleaners, cooks, carpenters and landscapers – who because of the crackdown may not stick around to help Texas communities recover from the storm.” Even before the hurricane, there was concern that undocumented workers would be leaving the state because of perceived anti-immigrant sentiment.
Beyond the emergency rescue and relief efforts, international trade and travel also has been affected and CBP is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard and port authorities to resume operations as soon as possible.