What Resolve and Resilience Look Like in Florida and the Caribbean
Last week I traveled to visit CBP operations and personnel in Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The magnitude of the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria is devastating.
These hurricanes, and the stark challenges they have left in their wake, continue to test the resolve of all those who live and work in the affected areas.
CBP’s response has been urgent and extensive. Nearly 150 CBP officers and agents have deployed to Puerto Rico to contribute to the relief effort, with additional resources on the way. We have distributed over 120,000 ready-to-eat meals, 260,000 bottles of water and 500 generators, supporting our personnel, their families, and others impacted by the storms.
CBP personnel have been critical to helping residents and businesses in the affected areas recover. This was acutely the case in the remote village of Castaner. Situated in the mountains, Hurricane Maria’s devastation left Castener cut off from the rest of the island. After completing a welfare check, Air and Marine agents recognized the town was in need—the hospital and community were running low on water, food and supplies. Agents have returned almost daily, arriving in a Black Hawk full of much needed supplies.
In addition to personnel deployed from around the country, our local officers, agents, and mission support personnel, hundreds of them, remain wholeheartedly committed to recovery efforts and our critical national and economic security mission. Many feel a personal sense of responsibility and pride as they live and work in these communities; their neighbors are also in need of water and basic supplies.
At each stop, I encountered an extremely resilient and motivated team, in uniform and reporting for duty, working to reconstitute operations, and maintain support for our personnel, dependents, and their broader communities, despite the issues they and their families are facing in their own homes. For weeks, CBP officers and agents have been undertaking unrelenting, challenging missions—day and night—to help our fellow citizens in need. They are delivering essential supplies, transporting those in need of medical care, rapidly clearing goods that arrive to the island, and performing damage assessments and welfare checks.
Our deployed resources will remain for as long as they are needed, and our commitment to the affected areas remains steadfast. Whether in Puerto Rico or the USVI, Texas or Florida, CBP will be there for the long haul, committed to aid in the recovery and fulfill our frontline responsibilities.
Two comments made by our team tell the story for me of where we are in what will be a long and challenging road. The Chief Patrol Agent of Ramey Sector spoke for the operational “integration on steroids” between components of CBP and the Department of Homeland Security, and the team’s dedication to helping others with a simple phrase: “We all know that this is bigger than us.” And a CBP officer in San Juan, who shouted out from the back of the crowd at the end of a talk with employees when we were all feeling the emotion, summed up the spirit of CBP employees across the region that have been impacted by these devastating storms perfectly: “Standing Strong, Sir!” You are indeed.