Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-4 5) sent the following letter to the White House and Department of Homeland Security, raising questions about the activities of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at emergency assistance areas in Mecca:
September 13, 2012
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Homeland Security
301 7th St. SW
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Mr. President and Secretary Napolitano:
I write to inform you of a local emergency in California's 45th Congressional District, which I represent, and some questionable activities involving the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. The Riverside County Office of Emergency Services and the Red Cross are actively involved in coordinating emergency response efforts to assist residents in Mecca, an un-incorporated area located in the eastern region of rural Riverside County.
This week, Mecca has experienced unusually high levels of rainfall, which has resulted in widespread flooding, power outages, and in some areas a lack of access to clean, running water. The County of Riverside has declared a State of Emergency, and a coordinated evacuation of its residents remains underway.
Local emergency officials have brought to my attention that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agents appear to have been staking out the evacuation area, leading to heightened challenges for the Red Cross and other county emergency services to effectively serve those in need of critically-important resources such as clean water, food, and sanitation supplies.
As I am sure you will agree, the most significant issue at hand for these residents, who are currently displaced from their homes, is to have unhampered access to clean water, shelter and medical assistance. The mere presence of Border Patrol Agents has created a tenuous environment, which may prevent local emergency officials from providing critical services to everyone who needs them.
Respectfully, I request that you promptly look into this matter to ensure these residents do not have access to their basic needs hindered during this very difficult time. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact my Chief of Staff Frank Cullen at (202) 225-5330.
MARY BONO MACK
Member of Congress