Safety takes priority over immigration status during hurricane evacuation

Humberto Barrera

Cameron County officials are re-evaluating their plans on evacuation procedures.

Action 4 News spoke to them about how they are adapting those plans to possibly include the influx of immigrants.

Hurricane experts predict a slow hurricane season, but Cameron County officials say it only takes one to cause serious damage.

That's why preparation efforts are ongoing. One new factor that officials are now having to take into account this season is the immigration influx.

Cameron County Emergency Manager Humberto Barrera said the primary goal during the crisis is to get people to safe ground.

If there's a mandatory evacuation our job is to evacuate people not necessarily to check the status legally or illegally, Emergency Manager Humberto Barrera said. Our job is to save lives evacuate people and that's the job that we're going to do.

There are currently 53 pick-up locations throughout the county for people who want help evacuating in case of a major storm.

From there, the plan calls for them to be taken to a hub in San Benito.

Then people will be placed on buses headed out of the Rio Grande Valley.

Checking immigration status has not been part of the equation when boarding those state buses, but Barrera said that could change.

"In the event that border patrol might decide to have a couple of border patrol agents at our hub, checking for papers and paperwork and stuff like that, it may happen, he said.

Right now, the immigration influx has not put a strain on the county's resources, and no equipment has been deployed to help with the crisis.

It doesn't appear that the numbers in Cameron County seem to be warranting that type of request for resources, Barerra said. If you're here legally or illegally, the first responder isn't the police and firefighters, it's the moms and the dads, uncles and aunts that have children you've got to have a plan for your family first.

Cameron County officials are not worried about the state's disaster funds possibly being taped into for the immigration crisis, but that could change depending on how long the crisis lasts.