The American Civil Liberties Union is upset that border checkpoints in Texas aren't planning on remaining open through Hurricane Harvey.
As the major storm barrels towards Texas and Louisiana and is expected to make landfall by Friday evening or Saturday morning, the civil rights group said keeping checkpoints open is a "disgusting move."
"As people seek refuge from Hurricane Harvey, they are likely to have to go north or west of Texas and would have to go through a checkpoint. By keeping checkpoints open, the Border Patrol is putting undocumented people and mixed-status families at risk out of fear of deportations," said Lorella Praeli, ACLU director of immigration policy and campaigns.
The Border Patrol says it will not close roadside immigration checkpoints north of the Rio Grande Valley unless there is danger posed to its agents or travelers.
"Border Patrol checkpoints will not be closed unless there is a danger to the safety of the traveling public and our agents. Border Patrol resources, including personnel and transportation, will be deployed on an as needed basis to augment the efforts and capabilities of local-response authorities," the agency said in a statement, according to the Texas Tribune. "The Border Patrol is a law enforcement agency and we will not abandon our law enforcement duties."
Praeli says this is a "disgusting move" that "breaks with past practices."
"The Border Patrol should never keep checkpoints open during any natural disasters in the United States. Everyone, no matter the color of their skin or background, is worth saving," Praeli said.
The Tribune reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection temporarily suspended enforcement in 2016 due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew and the evacuations the storm prompted.
"At a time of emergency, CBP must prioritize safety for everyone who lives in Texas. It is unconscionable that the Border Patrol is sending a dangerous, wrong message to our community by refusing to temporarily suspend immigration enforcement during an evacuation, as they did in 2016 and 2012, said Astrid Dominguez, an ACLU of Texas policy strategist. "We call on CBP to put public safety first and ensure that, no matter their status, families who wish to leave the area can do so unimpeded."
Louisiana has declared a state of emergency, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did so for 30 counties in the path of the storm, which forecasters say will be a Category 3 storm when it hits Texas. Some coastal areas where Harvey is set to make landfall have also issued voluntary and mandatory evacuations.
The storm would be the first Category 3 hurricane to hit the U.S. since 2005. A category 3 storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, is considered a "major" hurricane and has sustained wind speeds between 111 miles per hour and 129 mph.