Today, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) announced its opposition to remarks made by President Obama regarding the role and safety of ICE Special Agents assigned to Mexico. After his meeting with Mexico President Calderon on Thursday, President Obama stated, "There are laws in place in Mexico that say our agents should not be armed," and "We do not carry out law enforcement activities inside of Mexico." President Obama also stated that the role of ICE Agents was an "advisory" one.
FLEOA vehemently disagrees with both comments. In response to these remarks, FLEOA National President Jon Adler stated, "With all due respect, Mr. President, you have been tragically misinformed on both points." Contrary to what President Obama asserted, all law enforcement officers assigned to Mexico do perform "law enforcement activities." This may include conducting field interviews, responding to crime scenes, overseeing training, and participating in raids. The fact that they don't actually handcuff suspects doesn't diminish their role or the risks they face.
On February 15, 2011, alleged members of a Mexican cartel savagely ambushed two ICE Special Agents assigned to Mexico, and fatally wounded one of them. During this cowardly attack, hero ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata was brutally murdered, and hero ICE Special Agent Victor Avila was shot and critically injured.
According to FLEOA President Adler, "Our heroes were targeted and savagely attacked because of who they were-American law enforcement officers-and not because of the activities they performed. If our State Department is incapable of securing weapon permits for our officers, then we shouldn't continue sending them to Mexico unarmed."
On Friday, FLEOA met with Chairman Michael McCaul's staff from the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. FLEOA requested that the committee hold hearings in order to demand accountability for why the U.S. government sends unarmed law enforcement officers into hostile, crime-ridden foreign countries. FLEOA also respectfully requested that Congress halt all funding that is used by U.S. agencies to send unarmed law enforcement officers to unstable foreign countries.
FLEOA recognizes the importance of having law enforcement officers assigned to Mexico, and having them work closely with our Mexican counterparts. However, FLEOA President Adler stated, "It is reckless for our government to send any law enforcement officer to a foreign hostile area, with a Miranda card but no means of defending themselves. Calling our officers/agents "advisors" only serves to undermine the heroic work they perform. It doesn't minimize the risks they face."
FLEOA intends to honor the memory of hero Special Agent Jaime Zapata by continuing to advocate for agent's safety abroad. FLEOA extends its heartfelt prayers and condolences to Special Agent Zapata's family, and wishes Special Agent Victor Avila a strong and rapid recovery. FLEOA will honor the ultimate sacrifice made by Special Agent Zapata during the annual Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on May 13.
FLEOA is the largest nonpartisan, nonprofit professional association exclusively representing 26,000 active and retired federal law enforcement officers from 65 different agencies.