Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two U.S. ICE Agents Shot in Mexico

The U.S. embassy in Mexico announced that two U.S. ICE agents were shot in Mexico. One agent died.

The two agents were driving in the northern state of San Luis Potosi when they were stopped at what may have appeared to be a military checkpoint, said one Mexican official, who could not be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. Mexican military officials said they have no checkpoints in the area.

After they stopped, someone opened fire on them, the official said.

San Luis Potosi police said gunmen attacked two people a blue Suburban on Highway 57 between Mexico City and Monterrey, near the town of Santa Maria Del Rio, at about 2:30 p.m.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee, today issued the following statement regarding the attack on two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Mexico yesterday:

“Yesterday's brazen attack on two U.S. ICE agents in Mexico is an alarming reminder that Americans are not immune to the escalating violence south of our border. As Secretary Napolitano has said, we count an attack on an ICE agent as an attack on all who serve this country and put their lives on the line for our security. I call on the Administration to respond accordingly and ensure justice is swiftly served.

“I send my sincere condolences to family of Mr. Zapata and offer prayers for a speedy recovery for his partner who was wounded in this attack.”

A statement was issued by Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano condemning the violence. Nothing yet from the President.

This act was described as "a rare attack" on an American official in Mexico. Maybe. But how is that reality? American citizens have been murdered in alarmingly increased numbers along the border, both in Mexican territory and U.S. territory. Whether Border Patrol or ICE agents or ordinary citizens, none of the murders are justified.

Mexico is fighting heavily armed and powerful drug cartels that supply the U.S. market. Since President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown against drug trafficking shortly after taking office in December 2006, almost 35,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence.

Napolitano said the U.S. is working with the Mexican government.

Because the attack occurred on Mexican soil, Mexican authorities have jurisdiction in the investigation. However, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the full resources of her department "are at the disposal of our Mexican partners in this investigation."

Clearly, more work is needed to combat the drug cartels behind the violence.

While a U.S. law enforcement authority hasn't been killed on Mexico soil since 1985, what was previously considered unthinkable by would-be attackers -- over fear of full retribution by the United States -- no longer seems to intimidate in a drug war that has killed more than 34,000 people, including dozens of Americans.

The surviving agent was admitted to a Houston hospital.

Sources told the Chronicle the wounded agent is Victor Avila. He was taken to Ben Taub Hospital, in Houston, said U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the panel on investigations. McCaul is a former federal prosecutor in Texas and former deputy attorney general of Texas. Avila has since been released.

Avila, who was recently deployed for duty out of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, was shot twice in the leg and is in stable condition, ICE said.

It has not been determined if the attack was deliberate or a case of the agents being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is reported that President Obama called the dead agent's family to offer condolences. Let's hope there are stern calls to the Mexican leadership about this unacceptable action.

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