An Arizona congressman yesterday demanded the State Department take “immediate diplomatic action” to stop Mexican military incursions into the United States, saying U.S. Border Patrol agents face a continuing threat of being killed by rogue soldiers protecting drug smugglers.
Two-term Republican Rep. Rick Renzi, in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said reports of Mexican military units providing armed escorts to drug and alien smuggling operations represent “narco-terrorism in its purest form.”
“Our borders are under attack by sophisticated organizations that have no qualms about firing on our Border Patrol units,” Mr. Renzi said. “As we get tougher and more committed, so do the organizations committed to smuggling death and terror across our borders.”
A State Department official yesterday said the department is “in touch with the Mexican government when incidents occur,” adding that “they are usually resolved at that time at the local level.” The official did not know whether Mr. Renzi’s letter had been received.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday told reporters at Defense Today magazine that Mexican military incursions average about 20 a year, but were declining.
He called concern over the issue “overblown” and “scare tactics.”
Mr. Chertoff also said a significant number of the incursions were “innocent,” noting that police and military units in Mexico pursuing criminals “may step across the border because they do not know exactly where the line is.”
“Sometimes they may be people who are dressed in what appear to be military uniforms but they are just criminals, they are not military but they are wearing camouflage so someone may assume they are military,” he said.
“We have good relations with our counterparts across the border, we do have instances where we have Mexican police or military who deserted and become involved with criminal activity but we also have bad cops in the United States, too. It happens,” he said.
The U.S. Border Patrol recently warned agents in Arizona of military incursions by Mexican soldiers “trained to escape, evade and counter-ambush” if detected. The warning follows increased sightings of what authorities describe as heavily armed Mexican military units on the U.S. side of the border.
While the Mexican government has vigorously denied that its military is crossing into the U.S., Mr. Renzi said that during a tour of the Arizona border last month in a U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) helicopter, the pilot showed him military-style humvees lining up at dusk just south of the border to move drugs into the U.S.
He said the preparations occur nightly, noting that 50 percent of the drugs coming into this country pass though the Arizona desert.
“The Border Patrol knows they’re coming but they are outmanned and outgunned,” he said. “We need military technology to combat these military operations.”
Mr. Renzi also said states such as Arizona should be able to supplement federal border enforcement with federally financed state border guard units. He said states can react quickly to new border threats, and that the federal government is unable to graduate enough new agents.
“Border states are tired of waiting for a secure border,” he said.