NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – U.S. Border Authorities are now changing the rules on how officials carry out vehicle pursuits which are getting mixed reactions from advocacy groups and lawmakers. 

Immigration advocates have criticized border patrol officials for high-speed chases that have led to illegal immigrants dying. “People have died as recently as Sunday in Santa Teresa when there was a high-speed pursuit initiated by border patrol,” said ACLU investigative reporter, Leonardo Castañeda.

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On Wednesday the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced a policy change that impacts how officials decide when to chase a vehicle or when a pursuit should be stopped. 

This comes after the agency reviewed cases where passengers died when drivers fled law enforcement. The new policy outlines a framework for weighing the risks of a pursuit, benefit, or need. Castañeda said, “I think this is an important acknowledgment from CBP, that their previous policy was not working and was not doing its job in protecting the safety of everyone, everyone on our streets.”

But senator crystal diamond says border communities don’t feel safe and aren’t confident this change will decrease the amount of criminal activity happening. She explained, “They’re bringing just dangerous activity that’s coming across the border that doesn’t just threaten…our border communities that are living along the border, and our law enforcement officers but it’s also threatening the safety and security of migrants who are crossing.”

Diamond says there’s simply not enough resources to support the number of people crossing the border. “The challenge is our rural communities don’t have the resources to respond to them, we don’t have food, we don’t have shelter and we cannot meet their health care needs,” said Diamond. 

The agency-wide policy change will go into effect on May 1. The ACLU says it’s happy to see this policy change which also creates incident reporting requirements to improve transparency and accountability. Castañeda shared, “What’s important is making sure that people are safe in our communities and their border communities that people are able to go to school and not have to worry about a high-speed pursuit happening.” 

Republican Senator Crystal Diamond says in the upcoming legislative session she will be introducing legislation that would allocate funding to create communication infrastructure. Her bill would focus on building more cell phone towers along the border to help with communication.