For Undocumented Immigrants, Hurricane Season Brings Extra Worries

Some may choose to ride out storms rather than risk encountering Border Patrol checkpoints.

By Alain StephensJune 8, 2016 11:17 am| ,

June marks the beginning of hurricane season, and for many Texans residing along the coast that means living with the reality of impending evacuations.

Those evacuations could send residents packing up their belongings and heading inland – past throngs of law enforcement, emergency workers, and perhaps border patrol checkpoints.

That last one could be a particular concern for the thousands of undocumented immigrants living in communities near the Texas-Mexico border and along the coast. The simple decision to leave becomes the not-so-simple: choosing between riding out a dangerous storm or facing the risk of apprehension from border patrol agents.

Tom Dart, a freelance reporter for The Guardian, says that for immigrants in the Valley who are already living in hiding, it’s another level of anxiety on top of an already stressful situation.

“The main auto routes (out of the area) are subject to checkpoints,” Dart says, “And the only alternative, if you were inclined to try to avoid those checkpoints, would be a very long and dangerous trek though scrubland that has been a graveyard for more than a few undocumented immigrants in the past.”

Dart says that some immigrant advocates are pressing Border Patrol to assure the public that during the event of a mandatory evacuation, they would not enforce checkpoints. And while in practice, many checkpoints may already not be enforced during evacuations for logistical reasons, it’s the fear of the unknown that drives many undocumented immigrants to stay home and ride out the storm or risk splitting their families up.

“It shows the just the anxieties that a lot of people in the Valley who are undocumented live with on a day-to-day basis,” Dart says. “There are mothers who have U.S. citizen children, and they’re wondering if they will be split because the mothers and the fathers would have to decide whether to go through the checkpoint, but their children would have no problem doing that.”

Prepared for web by Alexandra Hart.