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Latino Daily News

Tuesday June 7, 2011

Bishop Asks Border Patrol Not to Check Immigration Status of Evacuees Escaping Hurricanes

Bishop Asks Border Patrol Not to Check Immigration Status of Evacuees Escaping Hurricanes

Photo: Hurricane Alex that struck the RG Valley area earlier this year

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Now that hurricane season has begun, emergency evacuation plans to help people in the Rio Grande Valley escape any destruction that might be caused by the inclement weather are in place, and a local bishop is asking that Border Patrol tell residents that immigration status will not be checked if an evacuation becomes necessary.

Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores has expressed concern that in the event of an evacuation, tens of thousands of undocumented Rio Grande Valley will either not leave for fear of being detained or will attempt to leave and have their immigration status questioned.

During a meeting with reporters at the San Juan Basilica, Bishop Flores said, “If a disaster is imminent, there is a great deal of uncertainty and one of the great dangers that happens in those times is you get all kinds of different information. People end up confused and sometimes not knowing what to do.

The church would earnestly and sincerely insist… (That it be made) very clear that the priority is the safety of the whole community and the whole community does not mean simply those who are documented. The whole community is the community of men and women and children who live in the Rio Grande Valley.”

On Wednesday, the Equal Voice for America’s Families network held a protest outside Border Patrol headquarters, in Edinburg, Texas. The protest, which coincided with the first day of hurricane season, was held to demand that Border Patrol save lives and allow everyone in the Rio Grande Valley to evacuate safely through the checkpoints, and they are asking that local law enforcement do the same.

In response, Rosendo Hinojosa, spokesman for the Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector said released a statement saying, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector has over 2,400 Border Patrol agents and several hundred support staff assigned to the local area. We not only work in the Rio Grande Valley but are members of the community.

“We have worked with state and local governments to enhance our Nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. The Border Patrol has conducted an extensive review of preparedness and response efforts, and actions are being taken at every level to improve communications and coordination and strengthen emergency response capabilities.
“The Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector is fully supportive of our state and local law enforcement partners and their efforts during emergency response situations.

“The Border Patrol will not hinder a safe and expedited evacuation from the Valley nor will there be pre-screening of individuals during an emergency evacuation.

“The Border Patrol is a law enforcement agency and we will not abandon our law enforcement duties. If there is a time when we have to unite with our emergency preparedness partners to evacuate community members, I can assure you that we will act quickly ensuring that the safety of those requiring evacuation remains paramount.”