Before you fire from the hip and “Blame Obama,” President Reagan set the stage for the majority of the strange laws that restrict law enforcement officials along the Mexican border. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, was bipartisanly woven together under a variety of misrepresentations such as the misuse of the term amnesty which was originally dictated to mean for the 1.7 million illegals already living in the United States at that time, not for follow-on actions. The law itself was imposed in hopes of beefing up the middle-class, improving border security, imposing harsher fines on those who employ illegals and other idealized notions that historically did not manifest. In fact, by the time the finally passed, 3 million illegal received amnesty under the law at the time.
This 1986 Act is well before my voting age came about, and I was not even slightly familiar with until I spoke with a 27 year California Highway Patrol veteran, about his encounters with the Mexican border. This is the part of our conversation that focused on pursuits.
Buck: “As Highway Patrol, what are most of your encounters from: moving violations, speeding, supporting pursuits?”
CHP: “Oh no, not even close. We will show up when asked but we can’t pursue illegals.”
Buck: “You can’t pursue illegals? Do you mean at all?”
CHP: “It’s tricky, but it is advised to not pursue in a vehicle. Usually, air will watch them if it’s available, or not; but it gets passed down until they stop somewhere, and maybe somebody follows-up.”
Buck: “How is this possible?”
CHP: “The 1986 Act gave way for an influx of illegals, and the Mexican consulate was in complete support of it.”
Buck:“What does that mean?”
CHP: “It brought about massive lawsuits, by the Mexican consulate against troopers or anyone else who pursued an illegal that resulted in a collision or injury.”
Buck: “Wait, what? How does that make sense? If they or anyone else is running from law enforcement, how is the pursuing officer liable . . . I mean, you’re signaling them to stop, but they are running . . . Doesn’t that make them in the wrong?”
CHP: “Well, you would think, but that’s not the way it works. A good example happened near the Pine Valley, [CBP] station. A group of illegals jumped a cross-divider on the road and starting driving the in the wrong direction to bypass the checkpoint. Our guys followed them, but they [the illegals,] crashed when they lost control . . . But the damnedest thing was that a representative from the Mexican consulate beat the ambulance there. They [the consulate,] ended up successfully suing just about everyone around the accident, that they caused.”
Buck: “Damn . . . But how did this manifest into non-pursuit? I mean, I get the law and that they can sue, but what made it illegal for law enforcement to pursue?”
CHP: “It’s a bit more complicated that than. You see, the [Mexican] consulate can and will sue you. We all just know that you don’t pursue illegals. It came it us as an official-unofficial D.C. order, and as far as I know the locals and the feds have the same standing order. But Border Patrol is a little different, they can pursue, as long as they stay off of paved roads.”
Buck: “That seems like a difficult set of boundaries to do your job. How can you even know if they are illegals and stay off of paved roads, that’s an odd limitation?”
CHP: “You learn to look for certain indicators as time passes; types of car, plates, people inside – you just know, for the most part, and it’s usually closer to the border that this stuff happens. On your border question, well it’s off of something that happened in ’92. In Temecula, a [Chevrolet] Suburban filled with illegals blew a Border Patrol checkpoint, and they gave chase. The pursuit went into town and the Suburban smashed into the side of a car full of high school students, they killed four kids that day, running. After that, the D.C. order came down hard, no pursuits on paved roads. That was it and why we don’t, besides getting sued.”
Buck: “D.C. order, from who?”
CHP: “We didn’t really get into from who; we all already knew not to. That incident just cemented it for us. In fact, we all knew about this before, but we were just trying to do out jobs.”
Buck: “So that was it?”
CHP: “That’s as far as I’m going to get into it.”
This practice of suing on a citizens behalf in a foreign nation, or to have your rights protected while abroad is nothing that you should ever expect the U.S. government to do on your behalf while abroad or even in Mexico. . . You would be lucky to get anyone on the phone at the U.S. Consulate, let alone have anyone tracking citizens – that is unless you go to the website and roll through about a million points forms, and maybe they’ll know you’re in the country. I’ll give it to Mexico for being so proactive in support of their citizen – despite their overarching intentions.
Mexico leverages the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to their benefit and the dissatisfaction of due process in the United States. The Vienna Convention gives foreigners that are arrested in the United States the right to contact their country’s consulate if the nation signed the pact. The rights of this act are supposed to be equally represented by all nations who signed this act. Although, the story U.S. citizen and Retired Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who spent 241 days locked up in a Mexican prison, tells of a different set of rules for U.S. citizens in Mexico.
On my trip along the border, I spoke with other law enforcement officials on the ground who reiterated the no pursuit on paved roads policy as doctrine. The consensus did support it, in that these types of pursuits do often endanger the public. While the complaint is that it is well known to those who profit from exploiting weak policy on the border and often exploit it; knowing that a ground pursuit will be broken off once they reach a paved surface.
Featured Image – A standard Border Patrol checkpoint in Southern California, the checkpoint was not setup for any form of pursuit. – Image courtesy of Buck Clay