LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and the ACLU of Texas welcomed the new vehicle pursuit policy announced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday.
“Preserving human life is paramount, and this policy makes that a central consideration by adopting many widely accepted best practices, such as banning dangerous techniques like PIT maneuvers. We can only wonder how many lives would’ve been saved had CBP implemented these best practices sooner,” said Rebecca Sheff, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of New Mexico. “While our office will be closely analyzing these policy changes and robust training and oversight will be essential to ensure compliance with this new policy, this is an important step forward for our border communities who have borne the brunt of CBP’s deadly pursuits.”
The policy goes into effect in May and includes important revisions to the rules governing Border Patrol agents’ vehicle pursuits and emergency driving, including in New Mexico and Texas. The ACLUs of New Mexico and Texas have long worked on investigating deadly Border Patrol pursuits, which have resulted in dozens of fatalities in the last few years.
That includes as recently as Sunday, Jan. 8, when two men were killed and eight others injured after a Border Patrol agent initiated a pursuit in Santa Teresa, in southern New Mexico.
“The deadly effects of Border Patrol vehicle pursuits were only brought to light thanks to the bravery of victims and witnesses,” said Bernardo Rafael Cruz, ACLU of Texas attorney. “These chases occurred indiscriminately and endangered not only people in the other vehicles but the public as well. We welcome a revised CBP vehicle pursuit policy but will continue to review its implementation and seek accountability for any actions by Border Patrol agents that harm our communities.”
A 2019 ProPublica study examining more than 500 incidents found that one in three Border Patrol vehicle pursuits ended in a crash. Prior advocacy by the ACLUs of New Mexico and Texas contributed to the long-awaited release, in November 2021, of the current version of the CBP vehicle pursuit policy.