Border Patrol agents in California and Texas have been fired at several times in recent weeks from shooters in Mexico, as human smugglers and criminals become more brazen.
Two incidents occurred south of San Diego, California. Agents were first fired at on Aug. 9, while taking a group of illegal immigrants into custody, and in a second incident on Aug. 16, while fixing a hole in the border wall. No one was arrested in either incident, according to Border Patrol’s parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Meanwhile in Texas, an agent based in El Paso was shot at 20 times while on patrol at 3 a.m. on Aug. 6. Camera footage revealed two people shooting with high-caliber rifles across the Rio Grande, which divides the countries. The two suspects fled the scene, and the agent was uninjured. Three days later, another agent in El Paso was fired upon five times while in his car. Fortunately, neither agent was injured.
"Border violence is a significant threat to public safety and to the Border Patrol agents charged with securing our nation’s borders. This is another example of the inherent dangers that agents face every day," said SDC Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, as reported by a Fox 5 affiliate in San Diego. "We are taking this event very seriously."
In all the incidents, the shooters were thought to be in Mexico. Because law enforcement agents were targeted, the FBI is investigating. Dr. Victor Manjarrez Jr., associate director for the University of Texas, El Paso, Center for Law and Human Behavior, said shootings like these normally occur every few months. Four incidents in a 10-day period indicates something more sinister is going on, he said, reported the Washington Examiner
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council union, said the shots show that criminals even within the U.S. have become "emboldened." "They know that law enforcement’s hands are being tied right now, and it’s no different on the border than it is anywhere else. When criminals know that they can get away with violating laws, they’re gonna do it," Judd said.
Border Patrol said it was collaborating with U.S. and Mexican law enforcement to investigate the shootings. "We take these threats and acts of violence seriously and will do everything we can to identify and bring those to justice who have sought to harm the men and women of the Border Patrol," said Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz.
Across the border from El Paso in Ciudad Juarez, cartels "stash" people in houses and wait for the right time to lead them across the border, when Border Patrol agents are not around.
The Mexican and U.S. governments recently busted 205 stash houses, preventing thousands of illegal crossings. Both countries also launched an initiative in July to seek information for the 10 most-wanted criminals involved in smuggling, thereby creating some tension among the cartels, the Washington Examiner reported.
People pay thousands of dollars to smugglers to take them across the border, but there are also people crossing the border who have not paid smugglers. There were an average of 7,000 people crossing the southern border each day in July without the help of smugglers. Human traffic jams have delayed the ability of smugglers to get migrants across the river.
Meanwhile, in San Diego, USBP said the shooting incidents remain under investigation while increased patrols have been assigned to the area. In El Paso, too, the shootings remain under investigation.
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