Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner Chris Magnus said the agency is “soon” releasing an updated policy pertaining to vehicle pursuits. The Associated Press reports that advocates have been demanding action following a massive spike in deaths resulting from Border Patrol’s high-speed chases. Two deaths were reported in 2019. In 2020, there were 14. Then in 2021, 22 reported deaths.
RELATED STORY: Disturbing New York Times' report shines light on Border Patrol's deadly car chases
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and ACLU of Texas said in a joint report that only last fall did Border Patrol make public its existing vehicle pursuit policy, “after resisting scrutiny for years,” including from officials like California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
But ACLU attorney Shaw Drake told the AP the current policy “is likely difficult for many agents to interpret and lacks specifics on how to weigh law enforcement benefits against risks when deciding whether to pursue someone,” the report said. Drake called Magnus’ announcement “certainly a welcome step in the right direction,” though added that the new policy will still need to be reviewed.
Among those killed following a vehicle pursuit last year was a 25-year-old man suspected of transporting a number of migrants. His mother had already filed a missing persons report when she found out he was in a medically induced coma after his vehicle rolled over as a result of the chase by Border Patrol. However, the agency had not bothered to contact her and inform her of her son’s condition. Nor did it contact her after he died. Nor did the agency even bother to tell her what happened: “Officials say it is not the agency’s responsibility to explain,” The New York Times reported in January.
“She said she understood that officials suspected her son was involved in illegal activity, transporting undocumented immigrants. ‘But that doesn’t mean you have to die for it,’ she said.”
The Biden administration took a major step in addressing the culture of unaccountability at CBP, when Magnus recently announced that the agency will be eliminating the corrupt units that have for years colluded to cover up horrific abuses committed by Border Patrol agents. The memo moves the authority Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs) had given to themselves to investigate themselves over to CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
The policy decision also came due to advocates, who sounded the alarm last year. Then earlier this year, ten congressional chairs said they would be seeking a review into the secretive, cover-up units. The announcements by bicameral lawmakers mark a monumental victory for advocates who have been demanding justice and accountability on behalf of victims like Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, whose brutal murder at the hands of border agents in 2010 was covered up by one of these units. Family members have also called for new looks into their loved ones’ deaths at the hands of agents.
RELATED STORIES: Following push from advocates, CBP to disband cover-up units that shielded abusive border agents
Victims' families urge new look into Border Patrol abuses: 'They covered up what happened'
Ten congressional chairs are seeking a review of Border Patrol's secretive cover-up units