May 23, 2002
Border Patrol Agent Fired On
Mexican soldiers entered U.S. territory Friday in the latest
in a series of armed incursions and appear to have shot at a
Border Patrol agent.
Bill Strassberger, a spokesman for the Immigration and
Naturalization Service, said the agent was patrolling when
he saw what he believed were three Mexican soldiers in a
military Humvee on the U.S. side of the border south of Ajo,
Ariz., Friday evening.
To avoid a confrontation, the agent did a U-turn in his
Chevy Tahoe, which was marked with the patrol's
green-and-white design, and drove away. As he was driving
away, the vehicle's rear window was shattered by a single
gunshot fired from the direction of the Humvee, Mr.
The INS has begun an investigation and has asked the Mexican
government to investigate as well.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who has raised the
issue of incursions both on the House floor and to the
Mexican government, said the raids must stop.
"The fact is that we know someone o a member of the Mexican
military o fired at least one round at a member of the
American Border Patrol and came close to killing him," Mr.
Tancredo said. "If this kind of thing keeps up, somebody's
going to get killed."
But Mexican officials are not convinced that the incident
occurred on U.S. soil or that those who shot at the agent
were Mexican soldiers.
Miguel Monterrubio, a spokesman at the Mexican embassy in
Washington, said the matter was reported Friday to the
general in charge at the Mexican army base in Nogales,
Mexico. The general, along with Border Patrol officials and
the consul general from the Mexican consulate in Nogales on
the U.S. side of the border, went to investigate on Monday.
"According to them, there are no elements to note on which
side of the border the incident took place because the
incident took place at night," Mr. Monterrubio said, but he
added that the investigation is continuing.
Mr. Tancredo, however, who has been in contact with Border
Patrol agents familiar with the case, said the agent was
fired at when he was five miles north of the U.S. line and
that the persons in the Humvee were Mexican soldiers.
"There was no confusion with the people with whom we spoke
about where they were and whether or not they were Mexican
military," he said.
Mr. Tancredo said he has information that since 1996 there
have been 118 incursions o 61 of them by Mexican military
and 57 by Mexican law enforcement. In 90 percent of the
cases, the incursions appeared intentional, he said. Sixty
percent of the time, the Mexicans were armed.
A Justice Department official, who asked not to be named,
said there were reports of other incursions Tuesday night
and yesterday morning.
In the first incident, an agent spotted at least six
individuals in U.S. territory along the All American Canal
in California who appeared to be Mexican officials, though
he couldn't determine whether they were law enforcement or
military, armed with machine guns. They recrossed the border
into Mexico after a few minutes. Then, yesterday, an agent
saw three people who appeared to be Mexican military
officers carrying rifles at a different location along the
Mr. Tancredo has written a letter to Mexican President
Vicente Fox asking him to explain the incursions.
Both U.S. and Mexican officials say the region is a prime
spot for drug couriers to enter the United States, which
sometimes prompts incursions by soldiers tracking the
drug-runners. Both sides say they are working together to
try to reduce the forays.
But Mr. Tancredo said those efforts have fallen short,
partly because Mexican officials don't have a grasp on the
situation and partly because the U.S. government doesn't
push the issue.
"We're afraid of pushing this issue too far because we
recognize that if we can't rely on Mexico to curtail their
own military or federal police, then we're going to have to
put a lot more effort into securing our own borders, and
that is the frightening thing," he said.