An ICE Agent’s Long Quest for Jus­tice

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etrayed.”

Vic­tor Avila i s a s ur­vivor. Soft-spo­ken but iron-willed, he ded­i­cated his life to law en­force­ment and to his coun­try. Yet, the feds are now fight­ing tooth and nail to bury the full truth about the 2011 am­bush by Los Ze­tas drug car­tel thugs in Mex­ico that left him gravely wounded and his part­ner, spe­cial agent Jaime Za­p­ata, dead.

This week, t wo of t he Mex­i­can gang­sters con­victed in the hor­ror on High­way 57 be­tween Mex­ico City and Mon­ter­rey were sen­tenced to dou­ble life terms in prison.

“HSI Spe­cial Agents Jaime Za­p­ata and Vic­tor Avila were i n Mex­ico t o pro­tect and serve our coun­try when they were am­bushed by th­ese ruth­less crim­i­nals, who will now spend the rest of their lives in a prison cell,” act­ing as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral Blanco an­nounced Nov. 6.

“This case serves as a re­minder that if you harm a U.S. agent, the U.S. gov­ern­ment will pur­sue you to the ends of the earth to en­sure that you are brought to jus­tice.”

Five oth­ers re­ceived lesser sen­tences of 35, 34, 30, 28 and 12 years for mur­der and at­tempted mur­der, which Avila called a “com­plete and utter dis­ap­point­ment.”

As he de­scribed in his vic­tim im­pact state­ment, “I was shot in three places and had shrap­nel and glass imbed­ded in my body in too many places to count. Not only did I have to un­dergo mul­ti­ple surg­eries to re­move the bul­lets and shrap­nel and stitch to­gether my shred­ded mus­cles and skin, but I also had to learn to walk again.”

Avila’s wife, who also worked for the gov­ern­ment, lost her job. The ICE agent’s health care costs and other bills re­lated to the at­tack’s af­ter­math piled up, leav­ing the fam­ily nearly $200,000 in debt and his wife and two chil­dren trau­ma­tized. “To this day, the gov­ern­ment has not re­im­bursed my out-of-pocket ex­penses re­lated to my work in­juries,” he told U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Royce Lam­berth.

An­other dis­grace­ful in­dig­nity: This week, the feds re­fused to cover the Avi­las’ $3,000 in travel and lodg­ing costs from Texas to D.C. for the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, but did pro­vide hu­man­i­tar­ian pa­role for sev­eral of the Ze­tas’ fam­ily mem­bers from Mex­ico to at­tend the trial.

Even more dis­ap­point­ing, how­ever, is the cal­lous­ness of Belt­way bu­reau­crats ob­struct­ing t he Avi­las’ and

Im­mi­gra­tion Cus­toms En­force­ment spe­cial agent Vic­tor Avila and his wife pay their last re­spects to their fallen com­rade Jaime Jorge Za­p­ata dur­ing burial ser­vices at Rose Lawn Me­mo­rial Gar­den cemetery in Brownsville, Texas, Feb., 22, 2011. Avila was in the same ve­hi­cle as Za­p­ata in Mex­ico.

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