With the threat of Hurricane Alex looming in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the Rio Grande Valley has opened its Emergency Operations Center to deal with whatever threats the storm might pose.
According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., Alex is the first June hurricane to form in the Atlantic Ocean since 1995. In spite of this early arrival, CBP has been preparing for this type of incident for several months and on Monday they began operating out of the EOC under the direction of Incident Commander Leticia Moran and Deputy Incident Commander Mario Villarreal.
Yesterday at 1:30 p.m., CBP hosted a press conference in which Moran assured the public that CBP is committed to carrying out its mission to secure the border and protect the citizens of the U.S. in spite of the dangers the hurricane may bring.
Moran said CBP has emergency response assets strategically placed throughout the Rio Grande Valley that can quickly respond to any incident and rapidly provide relief to CBP employees and their families to ensure continuity of operations at and between the ports of entry.
"No matter what happens we are here protecting the American public," Moran said.
Villarreal said people who are considering entering the United States illegally often think that CBP will be lax in its efforts to stop them during a hurricane. He assured the media that this is not the case.
"CBP remains vigilant throughout the storm and advises that the Rio Grande is swollen with water and flowing swiftly, significantly increasing the dangers of crossing the border illegally," said Villareal. He urged the media outlets serving the interior of Mexico to warn their audience of the high level of danger they face when attempting to cross illegally into the U.S.
Several media outlets from throughout the valley attended the conference.
The hurricane made landfall at Soto La Marina, Mexico, about 105 miles south of Brownsville at approximately 9 p.m. on June 30 as a Category 2 storm with winds of 105 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm with winds of 50 miles per hour and producing six to 12 inches of rain over northeastern Mexico.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.