The ACLU asked the Border Patrol to shut down its checkpoints in Texas Friday, saying illegal immigrants fleeing Hurricane Harvey shouldn’t have to worry about being nabbed.
“By keeping checkpoints open, the Border Patrol is putting undocumented people and mixed-status families at risk out of fear of deportations,” Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.
The ACLU said past practice has been to nix the checks during storms, but the Border Patrol is refusing to do that this year.
Ms. Praeli said that was a “disgusting” decision, and hinted that she thought bigotry was a motive.
“Everyone, no matter the color of their skin or background, is worth saving,” she said.
Customs and Border Protection, in a statement Friday afternoon, said it was tying its operations to closures in the state’s roads.
“These closures will occur in a manner that ensures the safety of the traveling public and our agents. Border Patrol checkpoints that are outside of the path of the hurricane will remain operational. CBP will remain vigilant against any effort by criminals to exploit disruptions caused by the storm,” the agency said.
A number of interstate highways and roads out of the hurricane’s projected path in south Texas have Border Patrol checkpoints, where drivers are asked several brief questions by agents. The agents are trying to gauge whether those crossing through are in the country legally or engaged in other criminal behavior such as smuggling.
CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they would assist evacuations in the storm-affected area, and promised not to do “routine” immigration enforcement at evacuation sites or shelters.
ICE said it was temporarily moving detainees from a detention center on the lower tip of Texas in Port Isabel.