A U.S. Border Patrol agent was held at gunpoint Sunday night by members of the Mexican military who had crossed the border into Arizona, but the soldiers returned to Mexico without incident when backup agents responded to assist.
Agents assigned to the Border Patrol station at Ajo, Ariz., said the Mexican soldiers crossed the international border in an isolated area about 100 miles southwest of Tucson and pointed rifles at the agent, who was not identified.
It was unclear what the soldiers were doing in the United States, but U.S. law enforcement authorities have long said that current and former Mexican military personnel have been hired to protect drug and migrant smugglers.
“Unfortunately, this sort of behavior by Mexican military personnel has been going on for years,” union Local 2544 of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) said on its Web page. “They are never held accountable, and the United States government will undoubtedly brush this off as another case of ‘Oh well, they didn’t know they were in the United States.’
“It is fortunate that this incident didn’t end in a very ugly gunfight,” said the local’s posting.
The NBPC represents all nonsupervisory personnel among the agency’s 16,000 agents.
Border Patrol spokesman Michael Friel did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson said Tuesday that the department had no information on the incident, and referred further questions to the Border Patrol. “It is not an incident that we are aware of,” she said.
Ricardo Alday, spokesman at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, said Tuesday that Mexico and the United States are 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.
“We always try to solve these incidents in a cooperative fashion, and as acknowledged by the Border Patrol, this was the case in the episode at Ajo,” he said.
Since 1996, there have been more than 200 confirmed incursions by the Mexican military into the United States.
Local 2544, the largest in the NBPC, is headed by veteran Border Patrol agent Edward “Bud” Tuffly II. He noted on the Web page that the local’s leadership would “withhold further comment on this incident until we see how our leaders handle it.”
“We don’t have much confidence in most of them,” the local’s posting said.
Sunday night’s incident bears similarities to other incursions by armed men in Mexican military gear in recent years: