- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 15, 2002

The U.S. Border Patrol found eight persons shot in a Chevrolet Suburban carrying 21 undocumented aliens near the Mexican-U.S. border yesterday, and some of the passengers said they had been shot by Mexican soldiers.

Lori Haley, spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) Western Regional office, said an agent on routine patrol at 12:30 a.m. Pacific time found eight persons shot on the U.S. side of the border near Calexico, Calif. One person's injuries were serious enough to require being airlifted to a hospital.

The Associated Press reported that three of the men were hospitalized in stable condition.

The INS said the incident was under investigation and would provide no details, but Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, who has been tracking border incursions and who looked into the incident, said the passengers told investigators that the vehicle that chased them was a Mexican military Humvee.

Mr. Tancredo said investigators collected shell casings, and a law enforcement source said the Border Patrol found tracks showing that another vehicle, apparently the military Humvee, came across the border, then returned to the Mexican side.

A spokesman for the Mexican Embassy could not be reached for comment late yesterday evening. Officials at the Imperial County Sheriff's Department in California, which is investigating the incident with the FBI, also didn't return calls.

Mr. Tancredo said 17 of the persons in the Suburban were from El Salvador, one was from Guatemala and the other three were from Mexico.

Mexican military or police incursions into the United States have been a problem, U.S. officials say. Last month, the rear window of a Border Patrol vehicle on patrol near the border was shot out, and the agent said the shots came from a Mexican military Humvee, according to sources.

Mexican officials have said the border isn't clearly marked in many of the instances in question, so it's not clear on which side of the border the altercations took place.

Mr. Tancredo said the theory is the Mexican military thought the vehicle contained drugs.

"The Mexican military is really not that concerned about people just entering the country illegally; they don't usually open fire on people entering the U.S. illegally," he said.

Mr. Tancredo and other members of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, which he heads, will call on the government next week to station U.S. military troops at the border.

"We're having more and more of this stuff happening," he said, calling it a "perfect example of why we have to get more people on the border."

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