Bush urged to block Mex­i­can mil­i­tary in­cur­sions

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY JERRY SEPER

The U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol’s largest union lo­cal has asked Pres­i­dent Bush to put an end to the scores of Mex­i­can mil­i­tary in­cur­sions into the United States that have put Bor­der Pa­trol agents at risk of be­ing in­jured or killed.

“It is dis­grace­ful that Bor­der Pa­trol agents are put in harm’s way and our gov­ern­ment doesn’t do ev­ery­thing rea­son­ably within its power to pro­tect us from ma­raud­ing Mex­i­can sol­diers and oth­ers,” said Ed­ward “Bud” Tuffly II, head of Lo­cal 2544 of the Na­tional Bor­der Pa­trol Coun­cil (NBPC) in Tuc­son.

“Without a force­ful re­sponse to th­ese il­le­gal in­cur­sions, an agent will even­tu­ally be se­ri­ously wounded or killed. It is only a mat­ter of time,” Mr. Tuffly said. “The in­cur­sions will not stop un­til the Mex­i­can mil­i­tary units and their com­man­ders are held ac­count­able for their ac­tions.”

In an Aug. 23 let­ter to Mr. Bush, Mr. Tuffly asked the pres­i­dent to “take a strong stand against” Mex­i­can mil­i­tary in­cur­sions.

He said Mex­i­can sol­diers have made hun­dreds of in­cur­sions into the United States and that some of them re­sulted in agents com­ing un­der gun­fire and be­ing de­tained at gun­point.

“It is a doc­u­mented fact that the Mex­i­can mil­i­tary is cor­rupt and is in­volved in pro­tect­ing drug car­tels, smug­glers and other crim­i­nals,” said Mr. Tuffly, a vet­eran Bor­der Pa­trol agent.

The NBPC rep­re­sents all of the agency’s 16,000 non­super­vi­sory agents. Mr. Tuffly’s lo­cal is the union’s largest, with about 3,000 mem­bers.

White House of­fi­cials said Aug. 27 that they had not re­ceived the let­ter and re­ferred in­quiries to U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion (CBP).

CBP spokesman Michael Friel ac­knowl­edged that the Mex­i­can mil­i­tary has made in­cur­sions into the United States and said those in­ci­dents have been treated se­ri­ously and re­ported up the chain of com­mand. He said pro­to­cols have been de­vel­oped to en­sure that the in­ci­dents are re­solved as “quickly and safely” as pos­si­ble.

“There is an in­ter­na­tional bound­ary for a rea­son and they are to be re­spected by both gov­ern­ments,” Mr. Friel said. “We take very se­ri­ously our role in work­ing with our in­terna- tional neigh­bors to ad­dress and re­solve th­ese sit­u­a­tions.”

Two weeks ago, in sep­a­rate let­ters to Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice and Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Michael Chertoff, Rep. Dun­can Hunter raised what he de­scribed as “se­ri­ous ques­tions” about the Mex­i­can mil­i­tary’s pres­ence and ac­tiv­i­ties along the south­west­ern bor­der.

He made the com­ments in re­sponse to an Aug. 3 in­ci­dent dur­ing which a Bor­der Pa­trol agent was held at gun­point by mem­bers of the Mex­i­can mil­i­tary who had crossed the bor­der into Ari­zona about 85 miles south­west of Tuc­son. The sol­diers re­turned to Mex­ico without in­ci­dent when backup agents re­sponded to as­sist.

“The fact that the Mex­i­can mil­i­tary is op­er­at­ing in such close prox­im­ity to the bor­der, without any iden­ti­fi­able pur­pose, calls into ques­tion its ac­tiv­i­ties and raises con­cerns about the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of our south­ern land bor­der,” said Mr. Hunter, a Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can who played a key role in the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to build a fence along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

“When con­sid­er­ing the fre­quency of in­cur­sions and the threat th­ese en- coun­ters pose to our Bor­der Pa­trol agents, it is crit­i­cal that we take the nec­es­sary steps to en­sure that Mex­i­can mil­i­tary and law-en­force­ment per­son­nel do not cross into the U.S. without our knowl­edge or con­sent,” he said.

Of­fi­cials at Home­land Se­cu­rity also re­ferred in­quiries to CBP.

Mr. Friel noted that the on­go­ing construction of 670 miles of fenc­ing along the south­west­ern bor­der “will re­sult in a clearer de­lin­eation of the in­ter­na­tional bor­der” and a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of in­cur­sions.

The State Depart­ment and the Bor­der Pa­trol in Wash­ing­ton de­scribed the Aug. 3 in­cur­sion as a “mo­men­tary mis­un­der­stand­ing,” say­ing the Mex­i­can sol­diers did not know where they were and needed to make cer­tain that the de­tained agent was who he said he was — al­though rank-and-file Bor­der Pa­trol agents in Ari­zona said he was dressed in uni­form and was driv­ing a well-marked, white-and-green agency ve­hi­cle.

The in­ci­dent occurred on the To­hono O’odham In­dian Reser­va­tion, a ma­jor corridor for smug­gling hu­mans and drugs.

Mr. Tuffly said the four Mex­i­can mil­i­tary per­son­nel who crossed into the United States on Aug. 3 did so af­ter pass­ing ve­hi­cle bar­ri­ers that Home­land Se­cu­rity had erected at the bor­der. The agent was in full uni­form and was driv­ing a fully marked Bor­der Pa­trol ve­hi­cle, com­plete with red and blue lights, large green stripes down the side, and the large words “Bor­der Pa­trol” on the sides and the rear of the ve­hi­cle, he said.

“A rea­son­able per­son would con­clude that the sol­diers knew ex­actly at whom they were point­ing their ri­fles,” Mr. Tuffly said. “Had the agent pan­icked and fired a shot or at­tempted to flee in his ve­hi­cle, there is lit­tle doubt the Mex­i­can sol­diers would have opened fire.”

He de­scribed the State Depart­ment’s dec­la­ra­tion that the in­ci­dent was a “mis­un­der­stand­ing” as “un­for­tu­nate.”

“Dur­ing past in­cur­sions, the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment has de­nied it had sol­diers in the area. They have blamed im­pos­tors, even when mil­i­tary Humvees were in­volved,” he said. “Time af­ter time they have got­ten away with th­ese in­cur­sions and time af­ter time our gov­ern­ment has not taken a force­ful stand against them.”

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