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An El Paso sector Border Patrol agent ran over a 29-year-old Mexican man while pursuing him with a vehicle on July 1, according to Border Patrol spokesperson George Gomez.
A statement from the Border Patrol about the incident indicated that agents were searching for three migrants near the Ysleta Port of Entry at approximately 9 p.m. July 1 when an agent “inadvertently” ran over one of the migrants.
“The man sustained non-life-threatening injuries to his leg and torso. He was treated and medically cleared July 3 and returned to Mexico,” said Gomez.
This incident occurred less than one week after the fatal crash involving Border Patrol pursuit on Paisano Avenue, in which seven people died and three suffered serious injury. Border Patrol officials have said that agents were not chasing the vehicle at the time of the crash, while multiple witnesses have contradicted that statement.
This is not the first time a Border Patrol agent has hit an undocumented migrant with a vehicle.
In 2017, a Border Patrol agent intentionally ran over a Guatemalan migrant in Nogales, Arizona, with his truck, eventually pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges. Text messages were later discovered that were sent by the agent discussing his actions. He used racist language and described migrants as “subhuman.”
The Border Patrol does not typically publicly disclose non-lethal incidents involving migrants, and had not released a public statement about this July 1 incident until pressed for comment by El Paso Matters. When asked whether there had been any other recent events involving a Border Patrol agent hitting or running over a migrant in the El Paso sector, Gomez said, “We are not aware of any other incidents like this one in the past year.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said the incident raises questions about the Border Patrol’s commitment to thorough investigations and transparency.
“We are disturbed about how Border Patrol is handling this situation. The agency claims there is an ongoing investigation but the victim has already been deported,” said Astrid Dominguez, director of the ACLU Border Rights Center. “Anytime that a law enforcement agency hurts an individual, they must report it to the public — not wait until someone inquires about it.”
In a tweet, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said the incident was further evidence of the need for more accountability and oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, the Border Patrol’s parent agency.
The Border Patrol has refused to publicly release its vehicle pursuit policy, despite repeated requests by political leaders and media. The Border Patrol refused an El Paso Matters request for information about off-road vehicle training and policy for this story, stating, “The pursuit policy is a law enforcement sensitive document that we cannot release,” Gomez said.
However, other law enforcement entities, including the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, have made their vehicle pursuit policies publicly available.
Concerns about transparency have been raised by officials and humanitarian organizations about this and other recent Border Patrol incidents involving vehicle pursuit.
“It is extremely concerning how Border Patrol continues to operate in the shadows. This latest incident speaks again to their lack of transparency and the much needed policing reforms for this agency, including basic accountability measures such as body-worn cameras,” the ACLU’s Dominguez said.
Cover photo: A Border Patrol vehicle drives near Sunland Park in 2018. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)