ALBUKERC, New Mexico (AP) — U.S. border officials announced changes to their policy to prosecute smugglers and other crime suspects on Wednesday following an extensive review and criticism from immigrant advocates that pointed to cases where passengers have died when drivers fled. from law enforcement agencies.
Customs and Border Protection announced the changes on Wednesday, just days after a crash in southern New Mexico that killed two people and injured eight on Sunday. Another accident on January 5 followed the shooting of a border guard officer.
The agency said the updated directive provides a framework for weighing the risks of retaliation against the benefit or need of law enforcement. The agency said it reviewed more than two dozen vehicle harassment policies from various US law enforcement agencies to develop a new policy.
“As a professional law enforcement organization, CBP continually updates policies to reflect best practices, public safety needs, and changing public expectations,” Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement. “The safety of officers, agents, and the public is paramount in carrying out our mission.”
Officials said the policy outlines factors to consider when deciding whether a vehicle should be pursued and when a pursuit should be stopped — similar to the standards of reasonableness most law enforcement officials consider when dealing with threats to themselves or the public. It also establishes reporting requirements aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability.
More:New legal paths for asylum seekers: CBP One launches digital app feature
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico criticized Sunday’s crash and urged the agency to prioritize best practices.
Rebecca Scheff, the group’s attorney, said on Wednesday the changes mark an important step forward for border communities. She said the preservation of human life is paramount and the policy is making this a central consideration by implementing many widely accepted best practices such as banning certain vehicle stopping techniques.
“This revised CBP vehicle harassment policy is largely the result of the relentless protection of people who have lost loved ones or been injured in the reckless harassment of Border Patrol vehicles,” she said.
According to the Customs and Border Protection Service, the driver in the latter case accelerated and lost control within seconds after the agent turned on the hazard lights.
Federal authorities confirmed on Wednesday that an undocumented Mexican illegal immigrant was charged in connection with Sunday’s fatal rollover and more arrests are pending.
In August, two brothers from Mexico were charged after they fled the authorities and crashed their car, killing two and injuring 10 people just a few miles from the US-Mexico border. According to court documents, the brothers themselves were smuggled into the US and agreed to bring in more migrants to pay off their debt.
Border officials said human smuggling is on the rise in the area, which includes El Paso, Texas and rural New Mexico. Since October, authorities have unearthed some 60 hiding places and more than 650 migrants as part of efforts to crack down on smuggling in the region.
In February 2022, the Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights informed Customs and Border Protection that it had received several complaints of possible civil rights violations related to vehicle harassment during the previous year. The allegations alleged that the personnel were unnecessarily pursuing at high speeds, which was unjustified.
The CPB review began in 2021 and looked at trends and outcomes related to classes. The agency then wrote a new policy for the last year.
The policy will go into effect later this year after training, the agency said. A new office within the CBP Office of Safety and Compliance will oversee implementation and training.