ICE deploys over 200 personnel to assist with Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts
Hurricane Harvey was one of the most devastating storms to hit the United States, as record-breaking rainfall tormented Southeast Texas for days, displacing thousands and causing more than 30 deaths to date.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deployed approximately 200 law enforcement personnel from Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) and Special Response Teams (SRTs) around the country to provide security for search and rescue teams and to assist with search and rescue operations.
Teams from ICE offices in Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, the National Capital Region (NCR), New York, Newark, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles and Tampa are already participating in search and rescue and security operations. Teams from San Francisco, Boston, Puerto Rico and remaining personnel of NCR are on standby.
About a dozen additional non-law enforcement ICE employees are also on their way to Texas as members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Surge Capacity Force (SCF) to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with hurricane relief efforts. ICE anticipates that several dozen more employees will eventually be deployed.
In light of the hurricane, ICE’s highest priorities are to promote life-saving and life-sustaining activities, the safe evacuation of people who are leaving the impacted area, the maintenance of public order and the prevention of the loss of property to the extent possible, and the speedy recovery of the region.
Through text, pictures and video, OPA will provide regular updates that will highlight ICE’s efforts in ensuring the speedy recovery of the region.
- Life-saving and life-sustaining activities
- Safe evacuation of people who are leaving the impacted area
- 100+ rescues of people in distress
- 150+ ICE Rapid and Special Response Team members deployed
- 12 non law enforcement support staff with DHS Surge Capacity Force
- Teams from ICE offices in Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, the Washington, D.C.-area, New York, Newark, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles and Tampa
- Generators, fuel trucks, food, water, and mobile communication units in strategic locations to assist with response efforts
HSI Tampa team rescues family and neighbors from flooding
As a result of a call for help from a fellow HSI employee, the HSI Tampa Rapid Response Team (RRT) rescued several people trapped by rising waters outside of Beaumont, Texas, on Wednesday.
Jason Pitts, a HSI San Antonio technical enforcement officer, reached out to several people to find help for his parents, who live outside of Beaumont. His call reached HSI Tampa Group Supervisor Ritchie Flores, who is currently deployed as part of a 13-member RRT out of central and northern Florida.
As Pitts found out a local levee had failed and water was rising, the Tampa RRT team moved quickly to the area by boat and rescued Pitt’s parents and their neighbors, including small children.
“I won’t ever be able to thank them enough for their selfless actions, which resulted in saving numerous families,” said Pitts in an email to SAC Spero. “Without them, my parents would not have been able to get out. They deserve every ounce of praise that can be bestowed upon them.
Also during the course of the rescue operations, the Tampa RRT helped evacuate the U.S. Customs and Border Protection port director to safety after the Fannett Fire Department rescued him from his flooded home.
The team is comprised of HSI special agents and HSI support personnel and is designed to quickly deploy during natural and manmade disasters, as well as emergency situations, when other federal, local or state agencies request ICE law enforcement assistance.
This rapid response of 13 personnel, from across central and northern Florida, reflects their mission in that they are operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are always prepared to deploy to an affected area within 12 to 24 hours.
HSI Rapid Response Team members are trained to deploy nationwide to support recovery from natural and manmade disasters or other similar events in which law enforcement and humanitarian support may be requested or required. The training includes instruction in first aid, land navigation, field patrol, rescue ropes, defensive tactics and disaster response training. The training culminates in multiple practical exercises simulating a broad range of disaster response-related scenarios.