Mexican Soldiers Crossed Clear Line; Pointed Rifles at Border Agent

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The nation's border czar has concluded that Mexican soldiers who held a U.S. Border Patrol agent at gunpoint in August did so after bypassing a barbed-wire fence and other clearly visible barriers to cross into the United States, contradicting claims by the State Department and the Mexican government that the soldiers were simply lost.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, in a private letter to the National Border Patrol Council Local 2544 in Tucson, Ariz., described the Aug. 3 border incident as a potential lethal encounter involving four Mexican armed military soldiers north of the international boundary.

There is a barbed-wire fence and new tactical infrastructure within sight that marks the borderline where the incident took place, Mr. Basham said. Our uniformed agent, in a marked Border Patrol vehicle, identified himself in both English and Spanish.

Mr. Basham, who oversees the Border Patrol, said that although most incursions into the United States by Mexican military or law enforcement authorities take place in remote areas where the international border is poorly marked, that was not the case in this particular incident.

He also described the tactics used against the agent, including the pointing of automatic rifles at him, as unacceptable, adding that the incident had been thoroughly documented by the Department of Homeland Security. He said the matter has since been sent to the State Department with a request for diplomatic action.

At the time of the incident, the State Department described the incursion as a 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. It was that the same general statement the department had made in dozens of other suspected incursions by members of the Mexican military.

During a press briefing in Washington, State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said that U.S. officials were aware of the incident and had brought it to the attention of the Mexican government but that the encounter stemmed from a momentary misunderstanding as to the exact location of the Mexican-U.S. border.

Border Patrol spokesman Lloyd Easterling at the time also noted that the incident, which took place on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, occurred in an area where there were no markers, at least not easily found. He said, There's no line painted in the sand or anything like that.

Ricardo Alday, a spokesman at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, also said at the time that Mexico and the U.S. were engaged in an all-out struggle to deter criminal organizations from operating on both sides of our common border.

Law enforcement operations have led, from time to time, to innocent incursions by both U.S. and Mexican law enforcement personnel and military units into the territory of both nations, and in particular along non-demarcated areas of our border, he said.

The unidentified Border Patrol agent was detained at gunpoint for several minutes by members of the Mexican military who crossed the border into Arizona about 85 miles southwest of Tucson. …