On the first day of hurricane season, community leaders demand safe hurricane evacuations for all Rio Grande Valley residents even those here illegally.
Their fear is that in the event of an evacuation families will be separated because of their legal status.
La Union Del Pueblo Entero, ARISE, Proyecto Azteca, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and the South Texas Civil Rights Project rallied for the safe evacuation of all Valley residents.
They said if border patrol and local officials demand residents paperwork at checkpoints during a hurricane evacuation, it would slow down the evacuation and even separate families.
They also point out that those here illegally wouldn't feel safe to evacuate and might stay at home even during a dangerous hurricane.
"Theres a lot of people you kow like in that case that have children and the parents are illegal here and that's real sad when they try to separate. They have to separate the families," said Gloria Suarez.
Border Patrol responded to these fears in a statement:
"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."
Rosendo HinojosaChief Patrol AgentRio Grande Valley Sector