Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Border Patrol plans to check IDs in hurricane evacuations (AP c/o Dallas Morning News)

Border Patrol plans to check IDs in hurricane evacuations

Associated Press

People fleeing from hurricanes near the Mexico-Texas border in South Texas will have to show their immigration paperwork to federal officials.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Thursday they plan to continue checking the citizenship of people at inland highway checkpoints about 75 miles north of the border in the event of a hurricane evacuation.

"It's business as usual at the checkpoints," Dan Doty, spokesman for CBP's Rio Grande Valley sector, told the San Antonio Express-News. "We'll still check everybody."

Those found to be in the country illegally will be sent to detention centers out of the hurricane's path, Doty said.

The policy raised concerns with many locals who fear that families may not evacuate because they do not want to leave behind a member who is not in the country legally.

"We're all in an uproar, everybody's in an enormous hurry, there's just a narrow window of opportunity and you get to the place with the buses and the Border Patrol's checking people," said Father Mike Seifert, a priest and activist based in a colonia outside Brownsville. "You're not going to go."

Gov. Rick Perry's office confirmed the state would prefer the checkpoints be closed during evacuations.

Doty said that it was up to the agents to decide whether to ask for papers from individuals at the inland checkpoints. Even with the checks, 120,000 people could be evacuated within 80 hours, he said.

Cameron County's executive Carlos Cascos said the government's primary role was to save lives.

"The Border Patrol, if they choose to do this — it just stands to reason that it's going to hinder or slow down the evacuation process," Cascos said. "And once word gets out, people will not evacuate. They'll just stay home. They won't leave if they fear they're going to be deported."

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