Assaults on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents reached a decade high in 2017, and assaults on Border Patrol agents also have surged in recent years, according to government numbers that seem to support agents’ claims that immigrants living in the U.S. illegally increasingly are looking to fight rather than flee.
The new numbers, reported by Homeland Security’s inspector general, could even be underselling the problem, investigators said, because the government doesn’t do a good job of tracking incidents, and agents and officers don’t always report them properly.
But the report does signal renewed danger particularly on the southwest border, where agents say a surge in illegal immigration in recent years generally correlates with growing violence.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, often refuse to bring charges or win cases against the perpetrators, the audit found.
At the border, the most frequent method of attack was projectiles — usually large rocks — which accounted for half of assaults. But bombs, clubs, knives, guns and even laser pointers to blind agents have all been used.
Most of the injuries were minor and didn’t require treatment, the audit found.
Customs and Border Protection recorded 1,089 assaults in 2010, which steadily dropped through 2014, when there were just 381 assaults. But things turned violent once again, steadily rising to 856 assaults in 2017.
Last year was the most violent this decade at the border, with 28 assaults per every 10,000 apprehensions.
In the interior, meanwhile, ICE agents and officers saw 48 assaults in 2017, tying 2010 as the highest in records going back to the beginning of the decade.
That was nearly double the number from 2016.
ICE officers, who handle deportations, and Border Patrol agents, who patrol the line between the U.S. and Mexico, say they’ve seen an increasing willingness on the part of migrants to resort to violence in recent years.
One of those assaults recorded in 2017 came when ICE officers tried to apprehend Lester Sadict Cruz-Garcia, an immigrant from Honduras who was arrested by police in New York on a domestic assault charge. Police released him into the community, ignoring a request by ICE that he be held.
Deportation officers then had to go out into the community to track him down at his home. When they approached him, he struggled and kicked, attempting the get away, the officers said.
They eventually got him in handcuffs and tried to get him into the back of an ICE vehicle when he bit one of the officers on the arm. The officer was taken to a hospital, where he was prescribed antibiotics.
Cruz-Garcia was sentenced in June to 364 days in jail.
In another incident last year, ICE officers in Massachusetts were trying to deport Mohammed Kenneh to Liberia. They drove him to Logan International Airport in Boston, but he knocked one officer to the ground and then used the handcuffs around his wrists to ensnare the officer’s hand, refusing to let go.
The officer had to be taken to the emergency room.