KINNEY COUNTY, Texas—Border Patrol agents will soon be limited in chasing vehicles that flee from them, under new rules unveiled in January and set to take effect in May.
Agents are being told that they must consider factors such as "the seriousness of the reason" for a pursuit and weather conditions when deciding whether to chase a fleeing vehicle that fails to stop at a checkpoint or port of entry—the official places to enter the United States from Mexico and Canada.
"A Vehicular Pursuit is considered Necessary when an Authorized Officer/Agent concludes there is an immediate need to apprehend a subject as part of their enforcement duties based on the totality of the known facts and circumstances," the rules state.
A pursuit meets the "objectively reasonable" standard when the government's interest in apprehending the person or people in the fleeing vehicle "clearly outweighs the Foreseeability of Risk to the public, officers/agents, other law enforcement, and vehicle occupants," the rules state.
Agents must evaluate the interest and the potential risk when choosing whether to pursue a fleeing vehicle and continue the evaluation during the chase. They must also alert a supervisor "as soon as feasible" during a pursuit and immediately terminate the chase if the supervisor doesn't authorize it to continue or orders it to be stopped.
If a chase is terminated, agents must pull their vehicle over to signal to the public and the fleeing driver that the chase has ended, according to the rules. They must alert superiors, then start driving again in the last known direction of the fleeing vehicle to check for "crashes, potential flight on foot, to determine if the Subject Vehicle was abandoned, or for any other incident."
The rules also suggest alternatives to vehicular pursuits, such as tracking with airplanes.
Agent: 'Codifying What Has Already Been Done'While the previous policy wasn't as restrictive, agents were already being told to not pursue every fleeing vehicle, a Border Patrol agent told The Epoch Times.
"They're codifying what has been already done," the agent said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The slowdown of pursuits started under then-President Donald Trump but has quickened since President Joe Biden took office, according to the agent.
"Under Biden, they don't want us to do jack squat," the agent said. "And really it plays with their narrative, because their narrative is: The only thing that's happening are refugees, asylum seekers, family units, and UACs. So why would we need to go into a pursuit if that's what's happening?"
UACs stands for unaccompanied alien children, or children who arrive at the border without a responsible adult.
Historic numbers of illegal immigrants have crossed the U.S.–Mexico border under Biden. The crisis has shown no signs of easing.
The agent is also concerned that the new rules incentivize agents to not do their jobs and to transfer pursuits to local and state authorities.
"They're incentivizing us to not do anything, which places everything on sheriffs, local law enforcement, and DPS," the agent said, referring to the Texas Department of Public Safety. "This is just another step in the way of destroying the sovereignty of this nation."
Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe, who was a Border Patrol agent for 31 years, said the new policy is going to result in no Border Patrol-led pursuits.
"That's going to be a zero pursuit policy," Coe told The Epoch Times.
If Border Patrol doesn't commence a chase, then more pressure will be placed on sheriffs and other law enforcement entities, Coe said.
A portion of Kinney County runs up to the border with Mexico. County officials have recorded increases in high-speed pursuits—to 139 in 2022 from 61 in 2020—and arrests of human smugglers—to 741 in 2022 from 169 in 2020.
ACLU Welcomes ChangeThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) welcomed the change in Border Patrol policy.
“Preserving human life is paramount, and this policy makes that a central consideration by adopting many widely accepted best practices," Rebecca Sheff, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of New Mexico, said in a statement.
"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."
Some of the Border Patrol pursuits have ended in crashes, and some of the crashes have left illegal immigrants and others dead.
Most of the deceased were in the country illegally, but others were U.S. citizens or agents.