Mexican military holds border agent at gunpoint
By Linda Bentley | August 6, 2008
TUCSON – Local 2544 posted an initial report on its website stating a Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent was held at gunpoint by the Mexican military on Sunday night south of Ajo.
Representing all non-supervisory agents, Local 2544 of the National Border Patrol Council is the largest union local and represents the busiest sector of the Border Patrol.
The post states, “While we're certain that some managers within the DHS and the President of Mexico will find a way to blame the Border Patrol agent, we would like to point out that the agent was in the United States, doing his job. Mexican military personnel crossed over the border and pointed rifles at him. Backup units arrived from the Ajo Border Patrol station, and the Mexican military personnel eventually returned to Mexico.”
A U.S. Border Patrol Report titled “Mexican government Incidents – 2007 Fiscal Year Report” obtained by Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, through the Freedom of Information Act revealed, “from 1996 to present, the Office of Border Patrol Field Intelligence Center (BORFIC) has confirmed 278 incursions into the United States by Mexican government personnel.”
As of Sept. 30, 2007, BORFIC confirmed 25 incursions during FY 2007, which included four by Mexican military personnel and 21 by Mexican Police Officials, four of which occurred in the Tucson sector.
The report also confirmed two encounters during FY 2007, including one in Tucson.
Each incursion, encounter and sighting is summarized in the 31-page report and state whether it was a Mexican military or police incursion and nearly all state they were armed and intentional.
On Sept. 21, 2007 an armed/intentional incursion by Mexican police was reported by the Casa Grande station, whereas a black helicopter with a Mexican flag on the side crossed into U.S. airspace near San Miguel. Agents reported sighting the helicopter several times approximately two miles north of the International Boundary and identified it as a PGR (Mexican Federal Police).
Only four of the 25 incursions documented last year were unintentional, all but two were reported as armed with the two documented as unknown.
There were two documented encounters, one of which occurred in the Tucson Sector. An encounter is defined as any activity by Mexican government personnel on the Mexican side of the U.S.—Mexico Border that results in interaction between the parties involved.
There were numerous reports of sightings, defined as significant Mexican government activity on the Mexican side of the U.S.—Mexico Border, which is not an encounter.
Most of the sightings describe a number of armed Mexican military soldiers dressed in camouflage, or other military attire, occasionally with a Humvee, some with a weapon mounted on top.
The most significant number of both military and police incursions between 1996 and 2007 occurred in FY 2001 (Oct. 1 2000 through Sept. 30, 2001), showing no significant dip in FY 2002, post 9/11.
Local 2544 President Edward Tuffly stated, “Once again, they come into our country, point rifles at our agents, and are allowed to return to Mexico as if nothing happened. One can only imagine the outrage if American soldiers or Border Patrol agents entered Mexico and pointed rifles at someone.”
Confirming incursions by Mexican military personnel have been going on for years, Tuffly said, “They are never held accountable, and the United States government will undoubtedly brush this off as another case of ‘Oh well, they didn't know they were in the United States.’"
He said the Mexican military went a step further a few years ago when they shot a .50 caliber rifle round through the rear window of a Border Patrol agent's patrol vehicle south of Ajo.
“Nothing was ever done. Nobody was ever held accountable,” said Tuffly, adding, “Even worse, nothing has changed.”
He said what the Border Patrol agents find “particularly galling” is the fact the Mexican military often pulls these stunts in Humvees paid for by United States taxpayers (although they were apparently on foot this time), while “Border Patrol agents have historically driven worn-out, junk vehicles.”
Tuffly said he was reserving further comment on this incident until after “we see how our leaders handle it. We don't have much confidence in most of them. They usually just sell us out, make excuses for the Mexican military, and invite more of the same.”
He said it was fortunate that the incident didn't end in a very ugly gunfight.
According to Border Patrol Spokeswoman Dove Crawford, about 40 such incursions have been documented along the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year.
In this instance, four Mexican military personnel held U.S. Border Patrol Agent at gunpoint for a few minutes on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, approximately 85 miles southwest of Tucson until the Border Patrol agent was able to prove who he was and that they were in the United States and the soldiers returned to Mexico.
And, just as Local 2455 suspected, Gonzalo Gallegos from the State Department said the encounter "stemmed from a momentary misunderstanding as to the exact location of the U.S.-Mexican border."