The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and the ACLU of Texas today published the first ever in-depth analysis of a Border Patrol Critical Incident Team (CIT) report following a 2021 fatal vehicle pursuit in New Mexico.
CITs are Border Patrol groups that investigate “any traffic collision” and any Border Patrol conduct that “results in death, serious bodily injury, significant property damage, or other exposure to significant civil liability.” Their existence was first revealed by the Southern Border Communities Coalition in 2021 and in May 2022 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced it will dismantle CITs at the end of this fiscal year.
The ACLU of New Mexico and ACLU of Texas obtained and published the report prepared by the El Paso Sector’s CIT on a deadly August 3 Border Patrol pursuit in southern New Mexico that ended with two people dead and eight others injured. The CIT report is riddled with inconsistencies, errors and gaps that raise troubling questions about what really happened. That includes uncertainty about when Border Patrol agents activated their vehicle lights and sirens, whether they set out a spike strip and whether Border Patrol vehicles made contact with the victims’ vehicle.
This is the first time a CIT report has been publicly released, although CITs appear to routinely investigate serious incidents involving potential Border Patrol misconduct, including in New Mexico.
The analysis was written by ACLU of New Mexico Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Shaw and ACLU of Texas Staff Attorney and Policy Counsel, Border and Immigrants’ Rights, Shaw Drake. They wrote:
“Fundamentally, the CIT report of the August 3 vehicle pursuit and crash demonstrates the need for the agency to preserve all past records created by the CITs and initiate an independent review of cases impacted by CIT involvement. If this report is indicative of the standards at which CITs perform, the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility has jeopardized the independence of past investigations by relying on documentation of such dubious accuracy for serious incidents involving injuries and deaths.”