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BP agents claim border incursions by Mexican police are treated lightly

January 06, 2001|By MARCY MISNER, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Mexican police incursions into the United States, such as two that happened Thursday, are not uncommon, say U.S. Border Patrol agents.

The disparity between how U.S. Border Patrol agents and Mexican police are treated when each enters the other's country is extremely one-sided and unfair, agents say.

Politicians ruin the relationship between the two agencies, agents say.

In two incidents this week, uniformed Mexican police officers came into the United States and there has been no official action taken in either case. In another incident about six weeks ago, a San Diego-based Border Patrol agent detailed to the Calexico station drove his service vehicle a short distance into Mexico and was escorted back to the United States by a Mexican officer. There reportedly were no hard feelings until a Border Patrol official notified the Mexican consul, who raised a stink about the incident and had the Mexican officer disciplined for escorting the agent back to the U.S., local Border Patrol union president John J. Hernandez said.

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In the first incident Thursday, uniformed Mexican police officers wearing dark brown shirts and tan pants with gun belts and badges were recorded on border cameras walking north about 1:30 p.m., said Hernandez. Agents did not speak with the Mexican police officers in that incident.

The video shows the officers walked north in the same area where two Border Patrol agents are accused of having crossed into Mexico July 13, an incident that upset officials on both sides of the border. The border still is not clearly delineated in that area, agents say.

Border Patrol spokesman Manuel Figueroa said the two officers walked up to the Allison check of the All-American Canal, looked around the area for a short time, peered into the All-American Canal from its south bank and then walked back into Mexico.

In the second incident, Hernandez said, uniformed Mexican police officers walked around the border fence just east of town about 9:15 p.m. Thursday. The two armed officers looked around the area before a Border Patrol agent advised them to go back into Mexico.

They complied, Hernandez said.

Figueroa said the Border Patrol notified the Mexican consul about the first incident and the agencies are meeting to discuss it. Officials are trying to determine which Mexican agency was involved and what the officers' purpose was in coming into the United States, Figueroa said.

Hernandez said administrators in El Centro's sector headquarters had just learned of the second incident Friday and were still looking into the matter Friday afternoon.

Hernandez said officials are not treating the latest two incidents with the seriousness given to the two Border Patrol agents who allegedly crossed into Mexico while pursuing a group of illegal immigrants in July.

Hernandez said agents are upset that such border breaches happen all the time, yet the Mexican consulate doesn't treat all incidents fairly.

"They made a big deal over the alleged accidental incursion," yet have all but ignored the incidents in which Mexican police enter the United States, Hernandez said.

"These incursions Thursday were obviously intentional, and not even part of an operation. They were taking a walk," Hernandez said.

"The All-American Canal is our property. They acknowledge that," Hernandez said of the officers who walked across its check gate.

Facts about the two incursions into the United States, along with a copy of the videotape, are being sent to Everett Bobbitt, the San Diego attorney representing the two Border Patrol agents in the July incident, Hernandez said. Bobbitt was in a meeting Friday and unavailable for comment.

In the incident in which Bobbitt is representing the agents, which allegedly occurred about noon July 13 eight miles east of the Calexico border crossing, a witness said agents crossed up to a half-mile into Mexico to capture suspected illegal immigrants. The border is not marked in that area. One agent reportedly traveled a short distance and the other about six-tenths of a mile.

Rita Vargas Torregrosa, the Mexican consul in Calexico, has said she thinks the U.S. agents' actions were intentional. She was not available for comment Friday.

The area is in the Imperial Valley desert, lacks a border fence and border markers are miles apart, Border Patrol officials have said. Vargas, however, said the All-American Canal is an obvious and defining borderline there. Figueroa said the canal only loosely follows the border divide, with as much as a mile of U.S. territory on its southern side.

The two agents are fighting disciplinary action, saying they thought they were on United States soil.

Border conflicts have been a chronic problem between the two countries. Mexican army units crossed into Arizona and New Mexico early last year, prompting brief confrontations between soldiers and Border Patrol agents and in one case an American police SWAT team. In another incident, Border Patrol agents near Otay Mesa allegedly ducked gunfire from Mexican anti-drug agents who may have breached the U.S. border Oct. 24.

The anti-drug squad never stepped onto U.S. soil and never fired their weapons, U.S. officials later told the Los Angeles Times.

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