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Groups Petition to See Hurricane Evacuations Policy

Thursday, July 10, 2008

  • Victor Castillo
  • South Texas Civil Rights Project
  • Source: Rollback (archived/inactive)

Groups Petition to See Hurricane Evacuations Policy

A Rio Grande Valley civil rights group and others sued Border Patrol to force them to clarify their policy on hurricane evacuations.

Action 4 News first reported that the Border Patrol intended to keep its south Texas checkpoints open and continue screening for citizenship during a hurricane evacuation.

The annoucement provoked criticism from Hispanic and civil rights groups who claim the checkpoints would prevent immigrants from leaving hazardous conditions and endanger or slow down the evacuation for American citizens.

Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector Chief Ronald D. Vitielo wrote an open letter to area residents that, "No enforcement role will be undertaken that will in any way impede the safe and orderly evaction of any member of the south Texas population."

That message was reiterated by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that a hurricane evacuation would take priority.

But the civil groups insist that the federal government's message has not been clear enough prompting them to file a federal lawsuit in McAllen on Wednesday.

Named as plaintiffs are:

South Texas Civil Rights Project
La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)
Proyecto Digno
Proyecto San Juan Diego
San Juan Community Church
Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid

Corinna Spencer with the South Texas Civil Rights Project said message from Border Patrol have not been consistent.

Spencer said the groups are suing Border Patrol in order to get them to formally clarify their position.

She said immigration inspections prevention immigrants from evacuation and slows down the evacuation for everyone else.

"It puts all of us at risk if the checkpoints are open," Spencer said.